Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.
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In this section
- CHAPTER XVII
Leicester Square Area: Leicester Estate
Leicester Square and the adjoining streets (fig. 94) were laid out on the estate of seven acres acquired by Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, in 1630 and 1648. (fn. 1) This land formed part of St. Martin's Field (Plate 1a) and had belonged at the close of the Middle Ages to the Abbot and Convent of St. Peter's, Westminster, and the Beaumont family. All of it had come into the possession of Henry VIII, three acres by surrender from the Abbot of Westminster in 1536, (fn. 21) and the other four acres on the death of the last Lord Beaumont's widow in 1537. (fn. 22) William, second Viscount Beaumont, whose ancestors had held land from the Abbey of Westminster and the Hospital of St. Giles in the Fields since the fourteenth century, (fn. 23) had been committed as a lunatic to the care of the Earl of Oxford. After his death in 1507 his widow, Elizabeth, married Lord Oxford (fn. 24) and on her death the Beaumont lands passed into the King's hands. (fn. 22)
The four acres of Beaumont lands consisted of two parcels, one containing one acre and the other three acres, which were separated from each other by the land belonging to Westminster Abbey. In 1552 Edward VI leased the oneacre parcel and the three acres of the former Abbey's lands, to John Best. (fn. 25) These four acres continued to be leased together, (fn. 2) and in 1589 were described as part of the Bailiwick of Neate. (fn. 26) Neate (or Neyte) was a district within the Abbey of Westminster's manor of Eye (or Eia), which was parcel of the lands surrendered by the Abbot in 1536. (fn. 21) The manor also included the district of E(y)bury and in 1623 James I sold the freehold of E(y)bury and Neate, together with the four acres in St. Martin's Field, to John Traylman and Thomas Pearson. (fn. 27) A day later they conveyed the four acres and the other property to Nicholas Herman and Thomas Catchmay. (fn. 28) Herman and Catchmay were acting as trustees for Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, (fn. 29) and in 1626 all three conveyed the four acres and the other property to Hugh Audeley (or Awdley), (fn. 30) the wealthy financier and Registrar of the Court of Wards and Liveries. (fn. 31) Audeley sold the four acres to Lord Leicester in 1630 for £160; (fn. 32) they formed the western part of the Leicester estate, and their site is now occupied by Lisle Street and all of Leicester Square except the ground on the east side.
The eastern part of the Leicester estate consisted of the parcel of three acres which had formerly belonged to the Beaumont family. As part of a larger piece of ground containing five acres they had been leased by the Crown in 1538 and 1552 to William Jenyns, groom of the chamber. (fn. 22) In 1554 the freehold of these five acres and other lands was granted by Queen Mary to Jenyns and to John Grene. (fn. 33) The five acres descended eventually, by bequest and sale, to Sir Henry Maynard, secretary to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, (fn. 34) and in 1609 Maynard sold the easterly two acres to Burghley's son, Robert, Earl of Salisbury (see page 339).
The remaining three acres, which had probably been enclosed by William Jenyns, were separated from Lord Salisbury's two acres by a ditch. (fn. 35) In 1628 Sir Henry Maynard's son, William, Lord Maynard, leased them, under the description of Swan Close, to William Ashton. (fn. 36) In 1640 Lord Maynard sold the freehold of these three acres to Lord Leicester's brother-in-law, the Earl of Northumberland, for £200. (fn. 37) The latter conveyed them to Lord Leicester in 1648, (fn. 38) and their site was later developed as Bear, Green and Castle Streets and the east side of Leicester Square.
Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, was born in 1595 and in 1615 married Dorothy, one of the daughters of Henry, ninth Earl of Northumberland; he succeeded to his father's title in 1626 and died in 1677 at the age of eighty-one. During his middle years Lord Leicester was employed successfully by Charles I as an ambassador, but he seems to have been 'rather a speculative than a practical man' according to Clarendon, 'very conversant in books, and much addicted to the mathematics', (fn. 39) a judgement which is confirmed by the Earl's behest in his will, that his 'books, papers and globes' should be preserved by his heirs 'as I have done in my time and largely increased them'. (fn. 40)
Although 'a man of honour and fidelity to the King' (fn. 41) the Earl had little sympathy with the Royalist cause, and after losing the King's confidence, he retired in 1644 to his country house at Penshurst Place, Kent. His last service to Charles I was to take custody of two of the royal children, Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth, after the King's execution, from June 1649 to August 1650. Thereafter he took no part in public affairs. (fn. 24)
His two elder sons, however, were both active in the fields of arms and politics. Philip, Viscount Lisle, who later succeeded his father as third Earl, was 'one of the warmest partisans of Cromwell', whereas Algernon Sidney, the republican, who was executed in 1683 for his part in the Rye House plot, had a 'haughty contempt' for the usurper. As the Earl showed a marked preference for Algernon and a deep antipathy for his eldest son the relationship between the three can only have been exacerbated by these political differences. (fn. 42) Moreover, the disposition of Lord Leicester's personal fortune and his estates, which besides the London property and Penshurst Place included lands elsewhere in Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire and Glamorgan, (fn. 43) was a source of bitter family friction both before and after the Earl's death.
The four acres which Lord Leicester acquired in 1630 were conveyed by Hugh Audeley, presumably in trust, to Lord Leicester's three kinsmen, James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, Algernon, Lord Percy, and Henry Percy. (fn. 32) (fn. 3) Leicester House was built on the northern half of the four acres in 1631–5, and on the southern part, which came to be called Leicester Field or Fields, Leicester Square was laid out in the 1670's.
On 19 May 1645 Lord Lisle married Catherine Cecil, daughter of William, second Earl of Salisbury, (fn. 24) whose estate adjoined Lord Leicester's. In anticipation of this marriage a settlement was made on 15 May in which Lord Leicester agreed to settle all his lands, after his and his wife's deaths, on Lord and Lady Lisle and their heirs. (fn. 43)
Three years after his son's marriage Lord Leicester bought the three acres called Swan Close, which adjoined Leicester Field on the east, from his brother-in-law, the Earl of Northumberland. (fn. 37) The latter's first wife (who was one of Lord Salisbury's daughters and thus a sister of Lady Lisle) had died in 1637. Northumberland had bought Swan Close apparently with the intention of building a house there for himself, (fn. 44) but he married again in 1642 and through his second wife acquired Suffolk House, better known thereafter as Northumberland House. (fn. 45) It was probably for this reason that he conveyed Swan Close to his brother-in-law in 1648. (fn. 38) Ultimately it was developed with Leicester Field.
Immediately after his purchase of Swan Close, Lord Leicester created a trust fund for the payment of £29,000 after his death, to be charged on the lands settled on Lord Lisle. All of this money was bequeathed to his other sons and daughters. (fn. 46) Until a few days before his death, Lord Leicester continued to draw up trust deeds, wills and codicils concerning the disposal of his estates between his children. Their most consistent and salient feature was his endeavour to pare down Lord Lisle's inheritance to the minimum, and as a result of this and because of Lord Lisle's violent opposition to the development planned by his father (see page 424), the inheritance of the London estate was hedged about with conditions. Leicester House was charged with the payment of £2,000 each to Algernon Sidney and a younger son, Henry, later Earl of Romney. The rents issuing from Leicester Field and Swan Close, both built upon at the end of the Earl's life, were also left to Algernon and Henry. The Earl further arranged that if Lord Lisle would not confirm the building leases of Leicester Field and Swan Close, and dispossessed the builders as he had threatened to do, then £9,000 (formerly assigned as marriage portions to Lord Leicester's daughters) were to be raised out of the lands in Kent and Sussex, to indemnify Henry Sidney from any claims which the builders might subsequently make. (fn. 47)
The second Lord Leicester died in 1677 and Lord Lisle, now third Earl, contested probate of the will against the executors (his brothers, Algernon and Henry, his brother-in-law, Sir John Pelham, and his nephew, Robert, Earl of Sunderland). The court ruled that the former Earl was of sound mind and sane memory, however, and probate was granted. (fn. 40) Thereupon Lord Leicester brought a suit in Chancery against the executors and surviving legatees, (fn. 48) who brought a counter-suit against him. (fn. 49)
The hearing began in December 1677. All the trustees appointed by the second Earl of Leicester in 1648 were dead, so the court appointed three of the Six Clerks in Chancery to hold the estate until the case was settled. (fn. 50) The next point to be decided was whether, as was alleged, the third Earl had agreed in the presence of witnesses to confirm the building leases granted by his father. This issue was referred to the Court of King's Bench in 1679. (fn. 51) The jury found against Lord Leicester, partly on the evidence of Gilbert Spencer, who had been the second Earl's agent during the development of Leicester Square. Henry Sidney was abroad at the time of the trial and Spencer reported to him the result and Lord Leicester's reactions in January 1679/80. 'You need not now bee afraid of that Cruell Tyrant, who may show his Teeth but Canne never byte, I heare hee stormes and sweares like madd calls me 100 rogues'. (fn. 52)
Following the result of the trial in King's Bench a decree was made in the Court of Chancery in May 1680. (fn. 53) Spencer again wrote to Henry Sidney 'wee have ye 4000 li. on Leycester house, … the 9000 li. for ye dead daughters [the marriage portions appointed by the second Lord Leicester] is decreed you if my Lord of Leycester and his son doe not Confirme ye Leases & grants [of the houses built in Leicester Field and Swan Close] before ye end of ye terme … My Lord of Leycester is not to have Leycr. house untill he pay ye 4000 li. & Confirme ye leases in Leyer. feild and then if he only confirme then the Trustees are only to Convey to him for his life Leyc' house & feild … as to Swan close I make no doubt you are out of all danger'. (fn. 54)
However, Lord Leicester, 'conceiving himselfe Agreived' by the decree, (fn. 53) petitioned, successfully, for a rehearing. (fn. 55) In January 1680/1 he was ordered to confirm the leases and pay the £4,000 to Algernon and Henry and thereupon Leicester House was to be conveyed to him by the three Clerks in Chancery. He was also ordered to pay the legacies out of the Kent and Sussex lands. (fn. 53)
The Earl paid the £4,000 in November 1681 and Leicester House was formally conveyed to new trustees on his behalf in that month. (fn. 56) Leicester Field was conveyed to the same trustees as Leicester House by the three Clerks in January 1681/2 to the use of the tenants for the terms granted by their leases and, as to the freehold, to the use of Lord Leicester's eldest son Robert, in tail male. (fn. 49) It must be assumed that Swan Close was intended to be included in this conveyance under the description 'Leicester Field' or that it was separately conveyed, for a few days later Lord Leicester with his son, Robert, settled Leicester Field and Swan Close (by name), to the use of the tenants, with the rents and the reversions to the use of the Earl and, after his death, to his son and his heirs male. (fn. 57) (fn. 4) And so, in due course, the estate descended.
Philip, the third Earl, having increased the revenue from the estate by letting the larger part of Leicester House garden (see page 427), died in 1698. He left bequests to his only legitimate son, Robert, with whom he seems to have been on good terms, to his grandchildren and to his illegitimate son and daughters. (fn. 58) Robert succeeded his father as fourth Earl but survived him by only four years. In 1700, on the marriage of his eldest son, Philip, he confirmed the entail of the London estate by settling it, after his death, on his son and his son's heirs male, with remainder, in turn, to his other sons. (fn. 59) The fourth Earl died in 1702 (fn. 60) and his son, Philip, the fifth Earl, died in 1705 without leaving any issue. (fn. 24) Under the terms of the entail Leicester House and the rest of the estate consequently devolved on Philip's brother, John, the sixth Earl.
The sixth Lord Leicester never married. In 1735 he purchased the major part of the former Military Ground, which adjoined the Leicester estate on the north, from John Jeffreys, junior. (fn. 61) On his death in 1737 he bequeathed the Military Ground to his younger brother Joceline, charged with one annuity to Mrs. Susanna Arnold alias Drake, who had lived with him for many years, and another to Thomas Sidney, the illegitimate son of his deceased younger brother, Thomas. (fn. 62) Thomas had been the next in line of succession, both to the earldom and to the Leicester estate, but as he had died before John his place was taken by Joceline, the youngest and last surviving brother.
The seventh, and last, Earl died in 1743, leaving only an illegitimate daughter, Ann Sidney, (fn. 63) who married Henry Streatfeild. The Leicester estate would then have remaindered to the male heirs, if any, of his father's uncle, Henry Sidney, the Earl of Romney, last surviving son of Robert, the second Earl. But Lord Romney had died unmarried and consequently the estate devolved on the only surviving legitimate heirs of the body of the fourth Earl. These were Mary and Elizabeth Sidney, daughters of his son Thomas. In 1743 Mary, who had married Sir Brownlow Sherard of Lobthorp in Lincolnshire, and Elizabeth, the wife of William Perry of Turville Park, Buckinghamshire, took possession of the Leicester estate as joint tenants, each holding one moiety. In the following year Lady Sherard sold her moiety of Leicester House to her sister, (fn. 64) but the joint tenancy of the rest of the estate continued until 1789.
Lady Sherard died in 1758. By her will (fn. 65) she bequeathed her moiety of the Leicester estate to Anne, daughter of Thomas, Baron Howard of Effingham, and widow of Sir William Yonge, fourth baronet, for her life, with remainder to their son, Sir George Yonge, fifth baronet, M.P. for Honiton. (fn. 66) Sir George sold his moiety, subject to his mother's life interest, to James Stuart Tulk (I) (fn. 67) (fn. 5) of Tottenham, merchant. (fn. 68) Both Tulk and Anne Yonge died in 1775, and the Sherard moiety then passed to Tulk's son, also James Stuart (II), whose wife, Charlotte, was Sir George Yonge's sister. (fn. 67)
Elizabeth Perry died on 29 August 1783. (fn. 69) She had spent a great deal of money in claiming the barony of Sidney, and in resisting a false claim to the earldom of Leicester; (fn. 70) she had also employed an agent who 'instead of saving her from destruction as he had pretended, was every day plunging her further in distress'. (fn. 69) Her estates had been very heavily mortgaged, (fn. 67) the mortgagees had filed a bill of complaint against her in Chancery, and after her death her executors stated that 'they have found the situation of her affairs extremely embarrassed'. (fn. 71)
By her will Elizabeth Perry devised her estate in Middlesex to her executors in trust for sale to discharge her debts and mortgages. (fn. 72) In June 1785 the Lord Chancellor (Lord Thurlow), at the suit of her creditors, ordered one of the Chancery Masters to take an account of all the claims on her estate, and, if necessary for their settlement, to sell it. (fn. 73) The sale of her property for its full value was probably impossible so long as her executors held the estate jointly with the Tulks, and in the same year the executors therefore filed a bill of complaint in Chancery against the mortgagees of Elizabeth Perry's moiety on the one hand, and against James Stuart Tulk (II) and other members of his family who had an interest in the second moiety on the other hand, praying that the whole estate might be partitioned and held in severalty. (fn. 67) In May 1787 the cause was heard before the Lord Chancellor who ordered that a partition should be made, and established a commission to prepare a scheme. (fn. 74)
The five commissioners (fn. 75) were Sir Robert Taylor, who had previously prepared plans for Elizabeth Perry for the alteration of her house in Berkeley Square; Charles Alexander Craig, architect and surveyor, who was nominated on behalf of Elizabeth Perry (fn. 76) and was a pupil of Taylor's; (fn. 77) John Spurrier, surveyor, who was nominated on behalf of the mortgagees; (fn. 76) Robert Golden, surveyor, who was probably nominated by James Stuart Tulk (II); (fn. 78) and John Willock of Golden Square, gentleman. (fn. 79) Sir Robert Taylor summoned the first meeting of the commissioners, which was held at the Standard tavern in Leicester Square on 27 October 1787, (fn. 75) but he died on 27 September 1788. (fn. 77)
The certificate of partition, which was signed by the other four commissioners, was dated 28 November 1788. Leicester House, which had belonged solely to Elizabeth Perry since 1744, and had not been held jointly with Lady Sherard or the Tulk family, was excluded from the partition. The rest of the ground on the north side of Leicester Square (plots B and C on fig. 94), the ground on the north side of Lisle Street (plot A), on the east side of Castle Street (now Charing Cross Road, plot E), and on the south side of Green (now Irving) Street (plot D) was awarded to Elizabeth Perry's executors and mortgagees. The Tulk family received the ground on the east, south and west sides of Leicester Square (plots F, G, H, I) and also that bounded by Princes (now Wardour), Lisle and Leicester Streets (plot K). The garden of Leicester Square (plot L), which was later to be the subject of prolonged disputes, was also awarded to the Tulk family, subject to the proviso that 'the Owners and Proprietors … shall for ever afterwards at their own sole and proper costs and charges keep and maintain the said Square Garden or pleasure Ground and the railing round the same in sufficient and proper repair as a Square Garden or pleasure Ground in like manner as the same now is'. Finally, the Tulks were to pay £300 to Elizabeth Perry's executors and mortgagees 'for equality of partition'. (fn. 75)
The certificate of partition was confirmed by the Lord Chancellor on 28 January 1789. (fn. 74) It was now possible to implement the Chancery order of June 1785 for the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate, and in July 1789 the Chancery Master to whom the case had been referred caused the impending sale in twenty-nine lots to be advertised in The London Gazette. (fn. 80) The sale took place before the Master in November, (fn. 79) and the estate was sold 'very advantageously' (fn. 81) for some £46,000. There were sixteen different purchasers or groups of purchasers, many of them tradesmen; many of them are mentioned in the following pages under the sub-headings of the plots which they bought.
Leicester Square had now ceased to be a single estate, but the Tulk family still owned the east, south and west sides of the square, the garden, and the ground bounded by Princes (now Wardour), Lisle and Leicester Streets. If John Galsworthy had placed the Forsyte Saga in an earlier period, the Tulks might well have served as his model. The family was of West Country origin, (fn. 82) but its considerable wealth was evidently acquired in the City of London by James Stuart Tulk (I), the purchaser of the Leicester estate, who is described as 'merchant' or 'wine merchant'. (fn. 83) The Tulks' active participation in business had almost ceased by about 1800 and the men in the very large families of later generations lived as gentlemen in big houses near London. By the middle of the nineteenth century their estate in Leicester Square had been subdivided into about a dozen parts.
James Stuart Tulk (II), who by his father's will had become the life tenant of the Leicester Square estate and was described as of Newington Butts, merchant or esquire, (fn. 84) died childless on 10 August 1791. (fn. 85) The Gentleman's Magazine stated that 'though possessed of an estate of 5000 l. a year, [he] lived with the most avaricious oeconomy to the last', (fn. 86) but later published a correction to the effect that his character had been 'totally misrepresented by the ill-timed malice of some illiberal person, whom, in some concerns of an extensive business, Mr. T. had probably offended'. (fn. 87) He left a large personal fortune to his widow and four sisters, (fn. 84) but the life interest in the Leicester Square estate passed to his younger brother, John Augustus Tulk (I), (fn. 85) who had been his partner in business (fn. 88) and with whom he had evidently not been on cordial terms. (fn. 84)
John Augustus Tulk (I), later described as of Woburn Place, (fn. 89) or of Ham Common, esquire, (fn. 90) had served briefly as an ensign in the 86th Regiment of Foot in 1784, (fn. 91) but had subsequently become a 'gentleman of independent fortune'. (fn. 92) He was an original member of the Theosophical Society, formed in 1783 for the study of the writings of Swedenborg, some of which he subsequently edited and translated. (fn. 93)
Shortly after his eldest son, Charles Augustus Tulk, had attained the age of twenty-one, father and son entered into an agreement for a resettlement of the estate. By a deed of 25 October 1807 it was declared that the ground on the south side of the square to the west of St. Martin's Street (plot H), the ground on the west side of the square (plot 1), and the ground to the north bounded by Princes (now Wardour), Lisle and Leicester Streets (plot K) should enure to such uses as John Augustus Tulk (I) should appoint; and the ground on the south side of the square east of St. Martin's Street (plot G), that on the east side of the square (plot F) and, subject to certain conditions (see page 433), the garden of the square (plot L) should enure to the use of Charles Augustus Tulk and his heirs. (fn. 94)
In 1817, at about the time of the death of his first wife, Betty, (fn. 95) John Augustus Tulk (I) settled the greater part of plot K on his son, Henry Tulk of St. Pancras, esquire, (fn. 96) and at about the same time he also appears to have made provision out of part of the remainder of his Leicester Square estate for one of his daughters, Maria Augusta, on the occasion of her marriage. (fn. 97)
John Augustus Tulk's second wife, Lydia, bore him three sons and one daughter. (fn. 98) In 1827 he was living at Park Square, Regent's Park, (fn. 99) but at his death on 23 January 1845, aged eighty-nine, he was residing in Brussels. (fn. 100) After provision for two unmarried daughters by his first marriage the bulk of his property then passed to his widow, (fn. 102) who died on 9 June 1851. (fn. 85) Her estate in Leicester Square consisted of plot H, plot I, less some land already sold to the Crown for the formation of New Coventry Street, and about one-fifth of plot K. By her will she divided this equally between her three sons, John Augustus (II), James Stuart (III) and Emilius Augustus, and her daughter, Lydia Augusta. (fn. 101)
Corresponding fragmentation had meanwhile taken place on Charles Augustus Tulk's portion of the estate, which in 1807 had consisted of plots F, G and the garden, L, whose history is described on page 431. Like his father, Charles Augustus was a man of heterodox religious opinions and a student of Swedenborg. He was M.P. for Sudbury 1820–6 and for Poole 1835–7, and included Samuel Coleridge and Joseph Hume among his friends. He lived for some years at Marble Hill House, Twickenham, and later at Totteridge Park, Hertfordshire. (fn. 102)
In 1807 he married Susannah Hart, the only child of a London merchant, who, before her death in 1824, bore him twelve children, seven of whom survived him. (fn. 103) Like his father, he treated his children with great generosity, mortgaging his Leicester Square estate for nearly £22,000 to set up three of his sons—Augustus Henry, Edward Hart and John Augustus (III)—on the occasion of their 'entering into Business', to purchase a commission in the Ceylon Rifle Regiment for the fourth son—James Stuart (IV)—and to provide for his daughters when they married. But Augustus Henry and Edward Hart, to whom he had advanced a total of £13,000, were both bankrupt within four years (fn. 6) and James Stuart (IV) resigned his commission after about the same period. For the rest of his life their father then paid each of them a personal allowance of £200 a year. (fn. 104)
Charles Augustus Tulk died on 16 January 1849, (fn. 105) after preparing an elaborate will the object of which was 'to demonstrate the equal Love I bear to all those of my children who have to depend on me'. (fn. 106) The premises in plots F and G were divided into seven scattered portions not forming self-contained holdings, and one portion or schedule each was allocated to seven of the eight children still living when the will was being drawn. (fn. 7) The rents arising from the premises in schedules 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 each yielded a little more or less than £600 per annum. (fn. 106) Schedule 4 was allocated to James Stuart Tulk (IV), who had served briefly in the army, but as it included vacant ground on the east side of Leicester Square (now part of the site of the Odeon Cinema) for which no rent had been paid for some years, the will provided that, until the ground was let, the income from this schedule should be levelled up to that of the others from Charles Augustus Tulk's personal estate. (fn. 107) The income of the fifth schedule, which was allocated to a married daughter, Carolina Augusta Gordon, only yielded £133, because at the time of her marriage her father had already provided her with an income of £455. (fn. 106)
The will further provided (or rather, was evidently intended to provide) that in order to redeem the large mortgages on the whole estate, each beneficiary should pay a stipulated proportion of the income which he or she derived from his or her portion to a special fund established for this purpose. But as she already possessed an income of £455 from other sources, Carolina Augusta Gordon was to pay the whole of her income (£133) from schedule 5 to this fund until the mortgages had been redeemed. The intended effect of the will was thus to provide all seven beneficiaries with approximately equal incomes. (fn. 107) But William Twopenny, the barrister who drew the will, altered the numbers of the schedules, and 'the number or word "fourth" was by a clerical mistake allowed to remain and be used for or in the stead of the number or word "fifth"'. The effect of Twopenny's error, which was not noticed until after Charles Augustus Tulk's death, was to deprive James Stuart Tulk (IV), to whom schedule 4 had been allocated, of any income until the mortgages had been redeemed. The executors refused to act, and within three weeks of the testator's death his family had filed a bill of complaint in Chancery. (fn. 106) In March 1852 the court declared against James Stuart's claim that Twopenny had made a mistake, (fn. 108) but two months later this decision was reversed on appeal. (fn. 109)
By the middle of the nineteenth century the Tulk estate in Leicester Square had thus been divided into about a dozen separate holdings. The subsequent history of these holdings has not been traced, but a small part of plot F, with a frontage to Charing Cross Road, was in the possession of the Tulk family until 1947. (fn. 110)
The idea of laying out a grand square 'intending the good and benefit of his family, the advancement of their revenue, and the decency of the place before Leycester house' (fn. 111) does not appear to have occurred to Robert, second Earl of Leicester, until late in his life, and seems to have been partly influenced by the laying-out of St. James's Square in the late 1660's, for which a building licence had been granted in 1662. (fn. 112) The building licence for Leicester Square was authorized in 1670 but it is clear that the Earl's intention to develop Leicester Field, and possibly Swan Close, was formulated at least by 1664. The delay must have been partly due to the fact that, although Lord Leicester owned the freehold of Swan Close, he was not in a position to let it for building, since the lease granted by Lord Maynard in 1628 to William Ashton was still in being and did not expire until Michaelmas 1669. (fn. 113) Another contributory cause for the delay seems to have been the quarrel which arose between the Earl and his son, Viscount Lisle. This was probably provoked by Lord Leicester's renewal, in 1663, of the under-leases of that part of Swan Close which became the eastern side of Castle Street (see below), and by his granting a building lease, in April 1664, of a piece of land in the south-west corner of Leicester Field to Anthony Ellis, mason (see page 504). The point at issue was whether Leicester Field and Swan Close should be deemed appurtenances of Leicester House and, consequentially, part of Lord Lisle's inheritance under the terms of his marriage settlement made in 1645. (fn. 43) (fn. 8) If so, then Lord Leicester had only a life interest in the estate, and by granting long leases was depriving his son of the profits to be expected when he came into his inheritance.
Whether or not Lord Leicester at the time of the marriage settlement considered Leicester Field to be included with Leicester House in his son's inheritance it is impossible to judge. He asserted later that it was not, and legal opinion confirmed that he had good title to it. (fn. 111) From a letter which Lord Lisle wrote to his father on 19 May 1664, it appears that he had refused to join in any leases, 'by which leases I should have given away my right, and my sons, for lives or many years' and 'according to my apprehension your Lordships estate is never likely to returne to your family'. (fn. 114) Thereafter Lord Leicester granted no more leases of either Leicester Field or Swan Close until after the expiration of William Ashton's lease of the latter in 1669. (fn. 113) He then applied to the King for a licence and on 10 April 1670 a royal warrant was passed ordering a licence for the Earl to build on Leicester Field 'and on that parcell of Ground adjoyning now called ye Bowling Greene, … parcell of … Swan Close'. (fn. 115) (fn. c1) The licence was granted on 25 February 1670/1, and included a pardon for buildings already begun. The dimensions of the ranges or 'piles' of building specified in the licence were: one range on the west, from the garden gate of Leicester House (i.e., where Leicester Street opens into Leicester Square) to the southern boundary of the estate, 330 feet in length and 100 feet in depth; another on the south, 330 feet in length and 60 feet in depth; and a third on the east, 520 feet in length and 300 feet in depth. (fn. 116) Because there were certain unavoidable factors which determined the line of Castle Street (see page 427), the square was pinched in towards the south and the dimensions in the licence were abandoned. The north side of the square was of course all taken up by Leicester House and garden.
In the meantime, on 19 April 1670, because of his 'greate age and the Infirmities attendinge the same' the Earl of Leicester had given his younger son Henry power of attorney to enter the ground 'to measure digge assigne stake out and order where and how such buildinges … soe designed as aforesaid shall … bee erected', to contract with builders and let the ground for terms not exceeding sixty years, and to receive the issues for the Earl's use. Lord Leicester convenanted to confirm the agreements made by his son. (fn. 117)
Only one agreement between Henry Sidney and a builder has survived; this is dated 20 May 1670 and antedates the agreements with other builders which were eventually executed by Lord Leicester himself. In it, William Tin(c)ker agreed to take a piece of land at the south-east corner of the square and to build houses similar to those erected in the south-west corner in 1664, and to perform such covenants and agreements as the other builders in the square should be obliged to do. (fn. 118) It will be seen from the specifications described below that the Leicester Square houses fell within the category of the 'second sort' of houses prescribed by the Act of Parliament for rebuilding the City of London after the Fire, houses of the 'greatest bigness' being the fourth category. (fn. 119) Lord Leicester apparently chose the houses on the north side of Pall Mall as a model, for in a draft of general articles to be agreed by the builders in Leicester Square there was a provision 'That every one shall build in such manner and forme and with such proportions and scantlings as those houses are built in the Pal Mal in St. James's feild fronting to the South, and to bee obleigd to such Articles as those builders were obleigd to'. (fn. 120) In a review of new buildings printed in c. 16–78 the houses in Leicester Square were distinguished from the 'great' houses in St. James's Square and Bloomsbury Square, being classed with 'the middle sort' erected elsewhere in Bloomsbury and in Essex and York Buildings. (fn. 121)
On 3 June 1670 ten builders and speculators entered into contract with the Earl. One set of detailed articles only was drawn up, with Dennis Connor of St. Martin's, gentleman, but the other contractors signed and sealed the agreement as witness of their undertaking to observe it. They were Thomas Ba(t)chelor of St. Martin's, saddler; William Burges of St. Martin's, gentleman; Claude Sourceau, esquire; John Parsons of St. Martin's, coachmaker; Samuel Hunt of St. Martin's, carpenter; Anthony Ellis of St. Martin's, mason; Thomas Robson of St. Martin's, gentleman; and George and Stephen Seagood, loriners (fn. 122) (i.e. bit-makers, spurriers).
The price to be paid for the plots fronting the square was seven shillings per foot of frontage and one quarter's rent was to be paid at the time of the sealing of the leases, on or before Michaelmas, 1670. Some of the leases were not, in fact, sealed until 1672, but their terms were all due to expire in 1712. The builders contracted to build houses, taking up all the frontages in continuous building and ranging in straight lines, within the space of two years. Each house was to be of three storeys, besides cellars and 'Cocklofts'; the cellar 7½ feet high, the first storey 10 feet, the second 11 feet, and the third 9 feet. The roof was to 'Stand upon the Garret floore' and the 'fore roofe' was to spread 24 feet wide, the rafters being 18 feet long. The thickness of the walls was also specified: 2½ bricks for the outer cellar walls, 1½ bricks for the partition walls in the same; 2 bricks in length for the outer walls of the first storey and 1½ bricks in length above.
All the windows and doors were to be uniform and of one height and 'Bayilled about (fn. 9) towards Leycester feild'. Minimum measurements for the house fronts were 18 feet and their depths were to be between 36 and 48 feet, with space for gardens behind.
The fronts were all to have 'One strong and proporconable Belcony' but jetties and 'Cant' windows were forbidden; the piers between the windows were to be 'broader then the half of the window or doore next adjoyning' and the windows in the half-storeys (the third storeys?) were to be square. No shop could be made fronting the square without the Earl's licence.
The timber to be used was yellow fir for the roofs and oak for the rest; elm was reserved for the stair steps only. The timber scantlings were as follows: roof girders, 14 × 8 inches; joists, 8 × 2½ inches; trimmer joists, 8 × 4 inches; principal rafters, 8 × 7 inches; purlins, 8 × 7 inches; plates, 8 × 6 inches; beams, 8 × 6 inches; and single rafters under the purlins, 4 × 3½ inches.
The contractors were each required to build a section of the brick sewer which was to be laid in front of the houses, to pay a contribution for linking it with the main sewer, and to make a footway three feet wide in front of the houses 'with french paveing such as is before Whitehall gate'. Posts and rails were to be set up in front of each house to enclose the centre, where the builders agreed to plant 'young trees of Elm'. (fn. 122)
As has been mentioned above, the north side of the square was occupied by Leicester House and garden and the south-west corner, from Hedge Lane east to the spot where St. Martin's Street now enters the square, was taken up by Anthony Ellis's buildings, erected in 1664–6. The rest of the south side, as far as Green Street, was built by William Tinker under his agreement of 1670. (fn. 118) The whole of the west side, extending back to Hedge Lane and from Leicester House garden wall on the north to the passage later known as Spur Street on the south, was let to Ellis on 20 June 1670. (fn. 123) The east side of the square was let in plots to Connor, (fn. 122) Robson, (fn. 124) Bachelor, Burges, Sourceau, Parsons and Hunt (fn. 123) in June 1670 and to Stephen and George Seagood in July and August 1672. (fn. 125)
Although the second Earl modelled the houses in his new square on prototypes from Pall Mall, he seems to have turned for the layout of his ground not to St. James's Square but to Bloomsbury Square. Like Leicester Square this had a great free-standing mansion occupying the whole of its north side, and the entrances to it were placed at the corners. (fn. 10) St. James's Square, by contrast, had entrances in the centre of each of the three main sides, and the Earl of St. Albans's own great house was so built as to be architecturally indistinguishable from the rest of the square. This aspect of Leicester Square must not be overemphasized, however, for its eventual plan was determined largely by the awkward limitations of the site, and there was no room for a planned layout of subsidiary streets such as those which surrounded both Bloomsbury and St. James's Squares.
The square is first illustrated in Sutton Nicholls's view of c. 1727 (Plate 46a), which shows the north, east and west sides. There are no pre-nineteenth-century illustrations of the south side at all, and the earliest general view of this side appears to be a photograph of c. 1874 (Plate 51b). In c. 1727 the square retained most of its late seventeenth-century appearance, and it is clear that the second Earl had been largely successful in enforcing uniformity on the house elevations. The unaltered houses on the east and west sides were of three storeys with basements and garrets, having fronts mostly three or four windows wide. Above each of the ground and second storeys was a raised bandcourse, and the fronts were finished with a modillioned eavescornice. The doorways had broken segmental pediments and the windows seem to have had eared architraves similar to those at Leicester House. Only one house, in the bottom lefthand corner of the view, seems to have had one of the balconies prescribed by the Earl, here placed in front of the first-floor window above the doorway.
It is worth noting the buildings which the view shows in the area behind the west side of the square. Although these cannot have been earlier than 1670 in date, they are shown with dormer gables of the old-fashioned Jacobean type.
Green Street, which probably commemorates the bowling green that stood on the site of the east side of the square, (fn. 11) was also laid out in 1670. Individual plots on the north side were let to Connor, Tinker, Parsons and Elias Lock of St. Giles in the Fields, coachman; and on the south side to Symon Pollyn of St. Martin's, bricklayer, (fn. 123) Thomas Crompe, gentleman, (fn. 126) Francis Axtell of St. Martin's, carpenter, and Robert Lauley of St. Martin's, bricklayer. (fn. 123) They all covenanted to abide by the agreement drawn up with Connor. Green Street was widened at the end of the nineteenth century (see page 503) and renamed Irving Street in 1939.
Bear Street, of which only the south side belonged to the Earl of Leicester, was laid out in 1671–2, when leases of individual plots were let to Parsons, (fn. 127) Ralph Hutchinson of St. Martin's, victualler, (fn. 128) John Morgan of St. Martin's, painter, William Cox of St. Martin's, bricklayer, (fn. 129) and Hunt. (fn. 127) Here again Dennis Connor's agreement set the standard of building and the builders also agreed to share the cost of paving and posting the way leading out of St. Martin's Lane by the new churchyard. This was Hemmings Row, the origin of which is discussed in Survey of London, volume XX. (fn. 130) In January 1670/1 Gilbert Spencer asked St. Martin's vestry if Lord Leicester might take over the way leading out of St. Martin's Lane into Swan Close, the Earl offering to pay seven pounds a year to the poor's use over and above the three pounds a year which he already paid for the Lammas rights over his estate. The vestry agreed and the way was let to the Earl on 20 June 1671 for five hundred years. He covenanted to pave the footway and separate it from the coachway by posts and rails. (fn. 131)
The line of Castle Street was determined by the previous development of Swan Close before it was acquired by Lord Leicester in 1648. The close was then bounded by a ditch running parallel with St. Martin's Lane, which separated Lord Salisbury's Swan Close on the east from Lord Leicester's on the west. Plots on the west side of the ditch had been let to the occupants of houses in St. Martin's Lane, which had been built on Lord Salisbury's land, to use as extensions for their gardens and as drying grounds. They were enclosed with brick walls which are just perceptible on Faithorne and Newcourt's map (Plate 1b). The leases of these plots expired in 1664 but on their being surrendered in 1663 Lord Leicester granted new leases due to expire in 1694. These in turn were surrendered in 1670–1 and new leases of the old plots with additional plots on their west sides were granted to both existing and new tenants between 1670 and 1672. (fn. 132) The double plots thus granted formed the eastern side of Castle Street, the western side being formed from the back of the plots on the east side of Leicester Square. The tenants covenanted to erect an eight-foot-high brick wall along the forefront of their ground, to pave half the width of the street in front, i.e. Castle Street, and to contribute to the cost of paving the way out of St. Martin's Lane. With the exception of one lease granted to William Deane of St. Martin's, carpenter, in which he covenanted to build two houses, all the surviving leases granted only permissive building rights. If taken up, the tenants were to conform with Connor's building agreement. (fn. 132)
Some time after the leases were granted, Lord Lisle brought a halt to building by insisting that, as life-tenant only, his father had no right to grant long terms. (fn. 51) In June 1671 the builders therefore began a lawsuit against Lord Leicester. They claimed that Lord Lisle had at first encouraged them but that, although they had 'bin att Great Charge and Expence in perfecting the houses … and have finished them', and other builders were 'now in hand with and in building their parts of the houses which they have undertaken', he was then giving out 'in speeches' that he would turn them all out after his father's death. (fn. 111)
Lord Leicester thereupon sent to Lord Lisle and Lord Lisle's son urging their consent, (fn. 51) and it was probably on this occasion that Lord Lisle wrote to his father: 'A Second letter from Gilbert Spencer [the Earl's servant] to my Sonne concerning the new Buildinges perswaded me to write … from my first heareing of that designe, I was glad of it, Imagining an addition to our familly, and since my concurrence was Adjudged usefull, I was allwayes ready to it and without thought of takeing any right in that land, I am Still … of the same mind, But if … you would rather the buildinges should cease, then that they should hereafter turne to my benefitt or my sonnes the buisnesse will bee harder to accomodate, for I haveing seene soe constant course of Shutting me out every where shall unwillingly lett goe any Slender hold I retaine upon my naturell or legall rightes'. (fn. 133) Shortly after this letter was written Lord Lisle's nephew, the second Earl of Sunderland, talked with him about 'the buildings in Leycester feilds' and reported to Lord Leicester that 'he sayes the best and readyest way of satisfying the builders is for him to joyne with your Lor.p in the leases'. (fn. 134) As the leases were already granted this was impossible, but Lord Lisle was evidently persuaded to give his consent to them in writing. (fn. 51)
The issue was revived in the lawsuit which Lord Lisle, then third Earl of Leicester, instigated after his father's death in 1677 (see page 418). During one of the hearings counsel maintained the second Earl's right to grant building leases, since although only a tenant for life, he held without impeachment of waste, and could, if he chose, have demolished even Leicester House with impunity. (fn. 51) It was proved that the third Earl had agreed to the leases being granted during his father's lifetime and he was therefore forced to confirm the lessees in their tenures, which he did, with much reluctance, in 1682. (fn. 49)
Shortly afterwards Lord Leicester continued the development of the Leicester Square area by sacrificing a large part of the grounds belonging to Leicester House. Over the site of the orchard, the kitchen garden and a 'close' walk, (fn. 135) three new streets were laid out (Leicester Street, Sidney Street and the western arm of Lisle Street) and houses were built along Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street) and adjoining the courtyard of Leicester House on the north side of the square.
This new development (fig. 94, plots A, B, K, and the northern range of plot I) was a mixture of large, medium and small houses to accommodate the nobility, the gentry and some tradespeople; behind the houses in each block was a communal stableyard with separate coach-houses and stables. The smaller houses were situated in Sidney Street, Colman Hedge Lane and at the west end of Lisle Street. They were occupied by shopkeepers and tradesmen during the eighteenth century and were probably so occupied from the beginning. Larger houses were built in Leicester Street, at the east end of Lisle Street and on the north side of Leicester Square. Sidney Street provided a new communication between the square and Colman Hedge Lane to which access had hitherto been barred because No. 53 Leicester Square had been built adjacent to the wall surrounding Leicester House garden.
Sutton Nicholls's view of c. 1727 (Plate 46a) shows that, apart from the two buildings flanking the courtyard of Leicester House (Ailesbury House and the Standard tavern), the houses on the north side of the square conformed closely with the slightly earlier houses on the east and west sides. The same appears to have been true of the contemporary houses in Lisle Street, Leicester Street and Sidney Street.
The principal contractor engaged by Lord Leicester was the bricklayer, Richard Frith, who laid out Soho Square in the late 1670's. The articles of agreement between Frith and the Earl were executed on 13 April 1682. (fn. 136) Some of the houses were in carcase by the end of 1683 and, when let by Lord Leicester, were leased to Frith or his nominees, sometimes to a building tradesman who had assisted Frith, sometimes to a City merchant who had helped to finance the speculation, and, on at least one occasion, to a prospective occupant. The leases (except in the case of Ailesbury House) were for terms of forty-one years from Lady Day 1683 at a peppercorn rent for the first year.
Building craftsmen who took leases from Lord Leicester included Richard Campion, carpenter; (fn. 137) Robert Drinkwater of London and Westminster, carpenter; (fn. 138) Mathew Frith (brother of Richard) of St. Martin's, bricklayer; (fn. 139) Edward Hall, mason; (fn. 140) Martin Heatly, bricklayer; (fn. 141) Rowland Reynolds, the elder, of St. Martin's, carpenter; (fn. 137) Nicholas Stone, bricklayer; (fn. 140) —Taylor, painter; (fn. 139) and James Wignall of St. Martin's, painter. (fn. 142)
Others who took leases, probably because they had provided financial assistance, included: John Blundell of St. Martin's, attorney; (fn. 138) Henry Boreman of London, scrivener, (fn. 140) and/or Henry Burman of London, citizen and salter; (fn. 143) Thomas Marlton of St. Martin's, gentleman; Michael Rolles of London, merchant; (fn. 140) and Richard Worth. (fn. 139)
Later, in the 1690's, Lord Leicester permitted a row of shops to be erected in front of the courtyard of Leicester House (see page 454); they are shown in Sutton Nicholls's view of the square (Plate 46a).
This view also shows that by c. 1727 a few of the houses in the square had already had their roof-garrets replaced by a full fourth storey. It is clear, however, from the next dated view, that of Bowles in 1753 (Plate 46b), that the middle years of the eighteenth century saw many houses completely remodelled or rebuilt. Uniformity was abandoned and the new houses had fronts varying in style between, for example, the typical builder's design of No. 21, with aprons to the windows, and the correct Palladianism of Gibbs's No. 25.
The Social Character of Leicester Square
The licence to build in Leicester Field and Swan Close in 1670/1 forbade the use of any premises for noxious trades, (fn. 116) and, when he granted building leases, Lord Leicester controlled the use of houses for commercial purposes by prohibiting the making of shops without his permission. (fn. 122) As far as can be judged from the evidence available this policy was successful and very few of the houses were occupied by tradesmen or shopkeepers in the seventeenth century. The exceptions were No. 17, occupied by a house painter, the former No. 31, which was a peruke-maker's, and No. 43, which was a tavern, all, it may be noted, in the three corners of the square which gave access to the surrounding streets. (The north-west corner was blocked until the 1680's, the house on the site of No. 53 being adjacent to the garden wall of Leicester House.)
Philip, third Earl of Leicester, reversed his father's policy towards shops in the square by permitting, and evidently encouraging, the erection of booths in front of the courtyard of Leicester House in the 1690's (Plate 46a, 46b). They were allowed to remain there until Leicester House was demolished in 1791–2.
The tendency to social change in the occupancy of the square was governed by the way in which individual houses were let by the Sidney family, whose retention of the freehold of the whole estate continued until the latter part of the eighteenth century. Leases were usually granted in reversion, that is to say, for terms of years beginning at some time distant from the dates on which the leases were granted. Hence few of the occupants had leases of their houses and many of them were transient tenants or lodgers.
None of the houses was of the best quality but some of the largest on the west and east sides, and those erected on the north side on the site of the garden of Leicester House, were occupied by families belonging to the upper ranks of the nobility, such as the Earl of Sunderland at No. 2, the Earl of Ailesbury at Nos. 5–6, the Earl of Rockingham at No. 27 and the Earl of Deloraine at No. 46. Leicester House, which dominated the square both physically and socially, was used as a town house by the Sidney family until the early years of the eighteenth century. During this period it was sometimes let; Lord Strafford, the Queen of Bohemia, the Marquis de Croissy and Prince Eugène of Savoy were among the Sidneys' tenants.
Leicester House was used as a royal residence in 1717–27 and in 1743–64, but this does not appear to have resulted in an increase in the number of noble tenants in the square. On the contrary, it probably introduced a more commercial element by attracting tradesmen who dealt in luxury goods and served the royal household. In 1749 there were at least sixteen tradesmen living in the square. (fn. 144)
However, the preponderant class of occupants during the latter years of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth came from wealthy county families, a large number of them being baronets or knights, some of them Members of Parliament, and others officers in the armed services. Of these, the most prominent politicians were Sir George Savile, who sponsored the Catholic Relief Act in 1778, at Nos. 5–6; Sir Henry Dundas, later Viscount Melville, the younger Pitt's treasurer of the navy, at No. 25; Lord Chancellor Somers at No. 28; and Henry Pelham, clerk of the pells, and uncle to the two Pelham prime ministers, the Duke of Newcastle and his brother Henry Pelham, at No. 50. Among the distinguished officers were LieutenantGeneral Sir John Lanier, who commanded in Ireland and Flanders under William III, at Nos. 46 and 50; Field-Marshal Lord Tyrawley, the second Baron, who had been wounded at Malplaquet, and had been governor of Minorca and Gibraltar, at No. 28; and Brigadier-General John Pocock, at whose funeral from No. 21 high-ranking fellow officers, including General (later Field-Marshal) George Wade, acted as pall bearers. (fn. 145)
The foreigners, so often remarked on in nineteenth-century accounts, appeared very early in the square's history. Most of them were artists and craftsmen. Three of the original inhabitants of the east side were foreign, Jeremy Nepho at No. 25, Balthazar Flushiere, or Fulshiere, at No. 27, both of whom probably kept lodging houses, and David Loggan, the artist, at No. 26. In 1682 Sir John Chardin, the wealthy French Huguenot jeweller and orientalist, came to No. 23. Other foreigners who settled in the square in the eighteenth century included the Princess of Wales's jeweller, Pierre Dutens, at Nos. 19 and 53; the painter, Charles D'Agar, at Nos. 22 and 29; Philip Mercier, the Prince of Wales's principal portrait painter, at No. 40; and the Swedish artists, Michael Dahl at No. 49 and Hans Huyssing at No. 51.
Several of the early foreign occupants were ambassadors and there were about an equal number of their English counterparts who made their London homes in the square. Notable among these were Sir Paul Rycaut at No. 52, Sir William Trumbull at No. 26, and Henry Sidney (later Earl of Romney) at No. 29.
Apart from the foreign painters already mentioned, the square was also the home of several English artists, of whom the most celebrated are Sir Joshua Reynolds at No. 47 and William Hogarth at No. 30. (fn. 12)
Sir Isaac Newton is frequently mentioned as an inhabitant of the square, but his house, No. 35 St. Martin's Street, was a few yards to the south. (fn. 146) The poet and diplomat, Matthew Prior, occupied No. 21 for a short period, the diarist, Sir John Reresby, lived at No. 45, and James 'Athenian' Stuart, the architect, was on the south side at No. 35 for many years.
The division of the Leicester estate in 1788 and the subsequent demolition of Leicester House marked the beginning of the social disintegration of the square. Until the 1840's the changes were comparatively gradual, but the great increase of through traffic along the north side occasioned by the formation of New Coventry Street in 1843–6 and the onset at about the same time of the prolonged neglect of the square garden caused very great alterations during the second half of the century.
Sir George Savile, who died in 1784, was the last private resident of note to live on the north side of the square, and next door at Leicester House itself popular entertainment had first found a home in the square with the establishment of Sir Ashton Lever's Museum in 1775. After the demolition of Leicester House, Barker's (later Burford's) Panorama was built in 1793 at No. 16 Leicester Square on a site within the grounds of the old house, and in 1809 Mary Linwood opened her gallery of needlework in part of the labyrinth of Savile House, where other forms of entertainment also began to be held shortly afterwards.
Elsewhere in Leicester Square Sir Benjamin Tebbs, sheriff of London, lived at No. 19 from 1792 to 1796 and the Earl of Lauderdale at No. 25 from 1792 to 1799, but the departure of the Marquess of Thomond from No. 47 (formerly Sir Joshua Reynolds's house) in 1806 marked the end of aristocratic residence. By this time, too, most of the doctors and surgeons who for the previous twenty years had formed a distinguished little community had also departed. (fn. 13) In 1835–6 the premises at No. 28 formerly used by John Hunter for his physiological collections were occupied by the short-lived Museum National of Mechanical Arts, and then until 1841 by the Zoological Society.
Gradually the few remaining private houses were succeeded by shops, by the offices of commercial firms engaged in a wide variety of fields, or by hotels. Most of the last bore French names and catered largely for French visitors for whom Leicester Square was conveniently close to Soho. The Sablonière Hôtel occupied houses at the southern end of the east side from 1788 to 1867. On the same side there were also Brunet's (latterly Jaunay's) Hôtel from 1800 to 1838, and, from 1834 to 1919, Deneulain's, latterly known as the Hôtel Provence.
In 1848 Edward Moxhay described the garden of the square, on which he wished to erect buildings, as 'a most unsightly object and a disgrace and reproach to the neighbourhood'. Since the opening of New Coventry Street and the widening of Cranbourn Street in 1843–6 the square had become 'entirely dependent for its prosperity upon trade and commerce' and was now quite unsuitable for residential purposes. (fn. 147) Although they still owned most of the buildings in the square the Tulk family had by the middle of the nineteenth century ceased to exercise any effective control over their character, and it was during the next twenty years, while the condition of the garden was going from bad to worse, that the square acquired its reputation as an area largely devoted to heterogeneous entertainment and business.
From 1839 to 1851 four houses on the east side of the square (Nos. 24–27) were empty while various projects for a theatre there proceeded on their abortive careers. The outward aspect of the square was, however, transmogrified when in 1851 James Wyld was allowed to erect his Great Globe in the garden. In 1858 the short-lived Royal Panopticon of Science and Art, which had been erected on the site of Nos. 24–27, was converted into the Alhambra Palace. After the death of Mary Linwood in 1845 Savile House had been used for an extraordinary variety of forms of entertainment until its destruction by fire in 1865. The Empire Theatre was subsequently built upon this site and opened in 1884. In 1893 the galaxy of famous theatres in the neighbourhood was completed by the establishment of Daly's a few yards away in Cranbourn Street.
Elsewhere in the square there was increasing diversity of occupation. There were two hospitals—St. John's for Diseases of the Skin at No. 45 from 1865 to 1887 and at No. 49 from 1887 to 1935, and the (Royal) Dental Hospital of London at Nos. 40–41 from 1874 to 1901 and at Nos. 31–36 from then until the present day. In 1869 the Sablonière Hôtel was demolished to make way for Archbishop Tenison's School, which remained until 1928, but hotels and restaurants nevertheless continued to increase, the most famous being Oscar Philippe's establishment at Nos. 20 and 21 from 1880 until 1928 (the Hôtel Cavour, latterly a restaurant). The large buildings on the north side of the square, now known as Queen's House and Victory House, were both built within the years 1897–9 as hotels. On the south side there was a soup kitchen at No. 40 for some years after 1847, and the commercial premises in the square were used by a wide variety of firms which included an anatomical-instrument maker, a builder, a picture dealer, a manufacturing silversmith, a lamp- and chandelier-maker, a music seller, an oriental pickle depôt, a Turkish bath, the London agents for Guinness stout, several auctioneers and many tailors. During the 1880's and 90's increasing subdivision, especially on the west side, provided more offices, many of which were occupied by theatrical agents and solicitors.
Leicester Square reached the peak of its fame as a West End centre of diversion during the quartercentury before the outbreak of war in 1914. This was the period of the great rivalry between the Alhambra and the Empire, when men from the furthest parts of the British Empire as well as from London and the country at large sought their amusements in a place which reflected their own virile and perhaps sometimes coarse and overbearing self-confidence. For Leicester Square was essentially masculine—its popularity with the demi-monde meant that it was no place for unescorted ladies—and when the war engulfed its clientele nostalgic memories of it were universally evoked by the phrase 'Farewell, Leicester Square' in the song It's a Long Way to Tipperary.
This phrase proved prophetic, for Leicester Square never regained its old prestige after the war. The theatres faced increasing competition from the cinema, and by 1937 all three had closed —the Empire in 1927, the Alhambra in 1936 and Daly's in 1937, to be replaced by 'picture palaces'. The Leicester Square Theatre, which opened in 1930, was intended to include living entertainment in its repertoire, but has only done so for a brief period in 1931–3. The Monseigneur News Theatre (opened in 1936) and the Ritz (1937) bring the total number of cinemas (including the Warner, on the site of Daly's) in the square up to six. They in their turn are now facing competition from new modes of entertainment, notably television, and in 1961 the giant Empire was closed for conversion into a ballroom and a cinema greatly reduced in size. The two large hotels on the north side of the square were converted into offices (except on the ground floors) in 1922 and 1936, and in 1959 the Automobile Association completed its annexation of the west side.
Leicester Square Garden
The site of Leicester Square was formerly part of the common field of St. Martin's, where the parishioners enjoyed rights of way and the use of the held for drying clothes and pasturing cattle after Lammas Day (12 August). This traditional usage is represented pictorially in the 'Agas' view of c. 1553–9 (fig. 97). In 1549 St. Martin's Field was described as meadow land containing about forty acres (although this estimate was evidently an exaggeration); two parcels, each containing three acres, had been enclosed by William Jenyns and John Stow respectively, but the rest of the field was common land after 'the Crope is Awaye', and was used as a practice-ground for archery. (fn. 148)
The northern part of the field was enclosed when the Military Company built the wall around its exercise yard in c. 1616 (see Chapter XVI) but there is no record of the company compensating the parish for this loss, possibly because the Military Ground was still, in a way, open to use by the parishioners. But when Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, purchased four acres of St. Martin's Field in 1630 in order to build Leicester House, he had first, before enclosing part of his land for building, to compensate the parishioners for their loss of rights.
Three members of the Privy Council were appointed by the King to act as arbiters between Lord Leicester and the parishioners. (fn. 149) The three councillors settled the course of the boundary walls for the enclosure of Lord Leicester's land; the walls extended from north to south, probably joining up with the existing walls of the Military Ground on the north side and of the Blue Mews on the south side. The councillors also appointed the route of a new footpath across the field from east to west, which they ordered to be railed. (The entrance to this footpath, through the brick wall which extended along Hedge Lane, was moved in 1666, see page 504). A brick wall was also built to separate the curtilage of Leicester House and garden from 'the nether part' of the field, which came thereafter to be known as Leicester Field or Fields; this, 'being equall in quantity and better ground then the other part', was ordered to be 'turned into Walkes and planted with trees alonge the walkes, and fitt spaces left for the Inhabitantes to drye their Clothes there as they were wont, and to have free use of the place, but not to depasture it, and all the foote wayes through that Close to bee used as now they are'. (fn. 150)
The footpaths are shown on early maps (Plates 1b, 2) but there are discrepancies in the routes which they took. However, the course chosen for the parish boundary when St. Anne's was made out of St. Martin's, i.e., from Spur Street to Bear Street (fig. 94), may well mark the line of an old path.
Lord Leicester was ordered to bear the cost of the alterations in Leicester Field and, in addition, it was agreed that he should be charged a sum of three pounds per annum as compensation to the inhabitants for the loss of their right to graze cattle after Lammas Day. (fn. 151) Together with rents for other Lammas ground this sum was paid to the parish overseers for the poor's use. (fn. 152) (fn. 14)
For some forty years Leicester Field was left open, apart from a row of buildings erected in the south-west corner, but in February 1670/1 Lord Leicester obtained a licence from the King to build (see page 424). No mention was made in the licence of the former agreement with the parishioners but limits were set to the ranges of houses to be erected and these left the centre open. (fn. 116)
Under their agreements the contractors who built the houses in the square were obliged to set up rails and posts enclosing the centre and to plant it with 'young trees of Elm'. (fn. 122) Apart from these trees the garden in its original state probably resembled the centre of St. James's Square. (fn. 153) Access was evidently open to all, for on at least one occasion it was the scene of a duel. This was in 1698 when six young men, including the Earl of Warwick and Lord Mohun, 'thought fit to quarrell' after a night at Locket's, and went 'by break of day to decide their differences in Leicester fields, where a pretty young man, Coll. Richard Coote's son of Ireland, was killed dead upon the place'. (fn. 154)
The earliest view of the garden is provided by Sutton Nicholls's engraving of c. 1727 (Plate 46a), which shows the trees still standing, but the posts and rails had been replaced by a dwarf wall surmounted by an iron railing, with gates in each side. These alterations were probably ordered by John, the sixth Earl of Leicester, for in the 1720's he began to impose an annual rent on leaseholders on every side of the square for the support and maintenance of the garden and the 'pallasadoes and fence'. (fn. 155)
In April 1737 it was announced that the square was going to be fitted up 'in a very elegant Manner', with a new wall and rails around the garden and a basin in the middle, 'after the Manner of Lincoln's Inn Fields', to be paid for by voluntary subscriptions from the inhabitants. (fn. 156) An undated plan in the British Museum probably relates to this scheme. (fn. 157) It shows the garden enclosed by railings with a gate in each side; four grass plots, bordered with trees, surround an octagonal basin with a fountain in the centre. The new railings and grass plots, without the trees, are shown in Bowles's view of the square (Plate 46b) but the basin was apparently never made.
In 1748 the statue of George I, which was later to be the subject of much verbal and physical abuse, was erected in the centre of the garden (Plate 50c, fig. 99). The statue represented the King 'on horseback in Armour', with 'Trophies of Warr' on the panels of the pedestal. It had been modelled by C. Burchard in about 1716 for the first Duke of Chandos and erected in the garden of his house at Cannons; John van Nost, the elder, had cast and gilded it. (fn. 158) The second Duke of Chandos was groom of the stole to Frederick, Prince of Wales, (fn. 24) and it was presumably he who gave or sold the statue to be erected in the square, shortly before the demolition of Cannons in c. 1750. (fn. 77) It was 'uncovered' on the occasion of the Princess of Wales's birthday on 19 November 1748. (fn. 159)
The certificate of partition of the estate in 1788 awarded the garden of Leicester Square to the Tulk family, and stipulated that the owners should 'for ever afterwards at their own sole and proper costs and charges keep and maintain the said Square Garden or pleasure Ground and the railing round the same in sufficient and proper repair as a Square Garden or pleasure Ground in like manner as the same now is'. (fn. 75) After the partition James Stuart Tulk (II) held a life interest in the garden, which, after his death without male issue on 10 August 1791, passed to his brother, John Augustus Tulk (I), (fn. 85) of Woburn Place, esquire. In 1807 the latter settled half of his property in Leicester Square on his son, Charles Augustus, who had recently reached the age of twenty-one. Charles Augustus's portion included the garden, and he covenanted with his father that he and his heirs and assigns would 'at all times hereafter keep … the piece or parcel of ground in Leicester Square now used as a Garden ... in its present form and in an open state uncovered by any buildings upon the same and shall and will keep ... the said piece or parcel of ground now used as a Garden in neat and ornamental order'. (fn. 84)
In 1808 Charles Augustus Tulk very unwisely sold the garden for £210 to Charles Elms, a dentist living in the square, (fn. 160) to whom the obligation to maintain the garden 'uncovered by any buildings' was transferred. (fn. 15) The conveyance also provided that Elms should not permit the defacement or removal of the equestrian statue, and that on payment of 'a reasonable rent' to him, the Tulk family's tenants in the square should be granted keys and the privilege of admission to the garden. (fn. 85)
The maintenance of the garden had now ceased to be the responsibility of any of the ground landlords of the surrounding houses, although they, in the interest of preserving the value of their property, had the strongest incentive to keep the garden in good order and prevent its misuse. Under Elms's ownership the garden evidently degenerated, for it was later described as having then been 'a neglected and dirty place', (fn. 161) and after Elms's death in 1822 (fn. 85) his executors were sued for neglect and ordered to restore it. (fn. 161)
Elms's legatee bequeathed the garden to Robert Barren, (fn. 85) a purser on board the Wolfe, who in 1834 sold the garden for £400 to John Inderwick of Princes Street, Leicester Square, ivory turner, subject to the same covenants as Elms had undertaken in 1808. (fn. 162) Five years later, in 1839, Inderwick offered the garden for sale by auction and Hyam Hyams, goldsmith, was declared to be the purchaser for £451. Shortly afterwards Hyams assigned his interest in this contract to Edward Moxhay of Threadneedle Street, builder, for £531. (fn. 163)
Prolonged argument ensued over the terms of the conveyance, Inderwick insisting on the inclusion of a clause for the maintenance by Edward Moxhay of the garden 'uncovered with any buildings', and Moxhay (who as a builder clearly had no such intention) refusing to accept this obligation. Meanwhile the garden became 'very ruinous and dilapidated', the inhabitants of the square ceased to use it, and in 1841 Charles Augustus Tulk made 'peremptory application' to Elms's heirs and assigns (i.e., Inderwick) to perform the covenants for maintenance contained in the conveyance of 1808. (fn. 163)
In December 1844 Moxhay filed a bill of complaint in Chancery against Inderwick, praying for the completion of the contract of 1839 without any obligation to maintain the garden. (fn. 163) By a Chancery decree dated 21 December 1847 the court declared that Moxhay must indemnify Inderwick against any breach by Moxhay of the covenants into which Inderwick had entered with Robert Barren when he purchased the ground in 1834. (fn. 85) Moxhay then paid Barron's widow (who had meanwhile remarried) £120 to release Inderwick from the covenants into which he had entered with her former husband in 1834 (fn. 164) and in August 1848 the freehold of the garden was conveyed by Inderwick to Moxhay without any obligation to maintain it or even to keep it 'uncovered with any buildings'. (fn. 165)
Moxhay immediately started to cut down the trees in the square and in October 1848 Charles Augustus Tulk, whose folly in selling the garden in 1808 for a mere £210 was the main cause of this deplorable state of affairs, sought an injunction in Chancery to restrain Moxhay from despoiling the square or building on the garden. (fn. 85) Moxhay replied that since the eastward extension of Coventry Street and the widening of Cranbourn Street the square had become 'entirely dependent for its prosperity upon trade and commerce' and that the surviving residents had ceased to use the garden, which had become 'a most unsightly object and a disgrace and reproach to the neighbourhood'. He admitted that he had considered erecting a bazaar in the garden as early as 1845. (fn. 147) In December 1848 the Master of the Rolls made an order restraining Moxhay from using the garden in any way which 'might be inconsistent with the use of it as an open garden and pleasure ground', and this decision was subsequently upheld by the Lord Chancellor. (fn. 85) (fn. 16)
Charles Augustus Tulk and Moxhay both died shortly afterwards, Tulk on 16 January and Moxhay (heavily in debt) on 19 March 1849. (fn. 166) Shortly afterwards the widow of John Augustus Tulk (I), Lydia, demanded that the garden should be repaired in accordance with the covenant given to her late husband in 1807, but meanwhile Moxhay's mortgagees had agreed to sell the garden to James Wyld for the erection of his globe there. (fn. 168)
James Wyld (1812–1887) was a distinguished geographer and for many years Liberal M.P. for Bodmin. He took a leading part in the promotion of technical education and had a wide reputation as a man of science. (fn. 66) When the Great Exhibition was in course of preparation in 1850 he had perceived that 'the congregation in London of the different nations and races of our empire and of the world' would be 'the proper moment for the completion of a great model of the Earth's surface, and the realisation of a thought which had for many years occupied his mind'. His idea was later described by the President of the Royal Geographical Society as 'well worthy of the projector, and of the spirit of the age', (fn. 167) and the derelict garden of Leicester Square was certainly an ideal site for it.
When the Tulks, who still owned the east, south and west sides of Leicester Square, heard of Wyld's plans for the Great Globe, they informed him of 'their intention to prevent the erection of the said model', and on 11 February 1851 they signed a very important agreement with him. (fn. 85) They agreed to allow Wyld to erect his globe in the garden and to enjoy the use of it for ten years from 25 April 1851. In return for this undertaking not to exercise such rights for the maintenance of the garden as they possessed under the deeds of 1807 and 1808, Wyld agreed to remove his buildings within six months of the end of the ten-year period, and to restore the garden. He also agreed that after the expiry of the ten years he would, if required to do so, sell for £500 one undivided moiety of the freehold of the garden to each of the two branches of the Tulk family, namely, the heirs of John Augustus (I) and Charles Augustus. (fn. 168) The intended purpose of the agreement was thus to restore the ownership of the garden in 1861 to the ground landlords of three of the four sides of the square.
Wyld started to build his globe in February 1851, immediately after the conclusion of his agreement with the Tulks, although he did not actually acquire the freehold of the garden from Moxhay's mortgagees (for £3,000) until April. (fn. 169) But he still had to cope with the inhabitants of the square, some of whom, at a meeting held on 5 February, had passed a resolution thanking him 'for his exertions to rescue the square from its present condition'. At another meeting of inhabitants, held on 27 February, however, it was decided 'after considerable discussion' to support Henry Webb, the owner of the freehold of a house on the north side of the square which had never belonged to the Tulk family, in his endeavours to preserve the centre of the square as a garden. Webb claimed the right to interfere with Wyld's plans under the terms of the partition of 1788, and threatened to seek a Chancery injunction to restrain Wyld from erecting his globe. On 5 July 1851, a few weeks after the completion of the building, Webb granted Wyld a ten-year licence for the globe on condition that it was removed within six months of the expiry of this term. Wyld later stated that the effect of this agreement had been to compel him 'to give up a great part of the original design of the building'. (fn. 170)
Wyld's first architect had been Edward Welch, but the tenders which were received in January or early February 1851 for the erection of the globe to his designs proved 'greater than it was thought desirable to accept'. (fn. 171) By 15 March H. R. Abraham had prepared another design (fn. 172) and a week later over one hundred men were working by night as well as by day on the erection of the wooden framework of the globe; (fn. 173) the contractor was George Myers. (fn. 174)
The plan (fig. 98), published in The Builder for 5 April 1851, shows the full extent of the structure planned by Abraham, the central globe rotunda of eighty-five feet diameter being surrounded by four quadrant galleries, extending between the four entrance lobbies placed on the cardinal axes of the plan. Each of the forty feet-wide galleries has a large apse projecting into the angle of the square's garden, and the north and south entrances are distinguished by having projecting porches. This scheme is shown, with some minor variations, in the watercolour view by E. Walker (Plate 42b). The outer wall, enclosing the galleries, was presumably intended to be finished with cement or stucco to resemble a masonry face of narrow courses with incised horizontal joints, these being continued across the projecting piers dividing the face into wide equal bays. High up in each bay is a circular window, set in a scroll-sided frame finished with a segmentally arched cornice. The north entrance, shown with panelled pilasters supporting a triangular pediment, is probably typical of the others. A ribbed roof of lead slopes back over the galleries to meet the drum of the rotunda, which has a low clerestory of oblong windows in bays between panelled pilasters, these last supporting the unbroken modillioned cornice. The lead-covered roof of the rotunda begins with a shallow slope rising to three steppings that surround a hemispherical dome, ribbed and panelled in the manner of St. Paul's.
T. H. Shepherd's watercolour of 1851 (Plate 43a) shows the building as constructed, without the quadrant galleries, although their addition was anticipated. This is evident from the rafterholes provided in the piers of the rotunda wall, which was of plain brickwork up to the cementfaced clerestory attic. The projecting lobbies shown by Shepherd accord closely with those of the plan in The Builder, the north entrance having a pedimented porch with Doric columns in antis.
The rotunda enclosed the wooden framework of the great globe, sixty feet in diameter, to the inner concave form of which was attached a map of the earth's surface, composed of six thousand plaster-of-Paris casts, each three feet square and one inch thick. From the centre of the floor rose a four-stage viewing gallery (Plate 43b). Between the rotunda wall and the curved surface of the globe were passages, used for exhibiting maps and dioramas.
The globe was finally opened on 2 June 1851, (fn. 175) a month after the opening of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The charge for admission was one shilling. (fn. 176) The equestrian statue of George I is reliably stated to have been buried several feet beneath the centre of the globe. (fn. 177)
James Wyld continued to use the globe for exhibition purposes until the expiry of his ten-year licence in 1861, when he removed the model of the earth and sold the remainder of the building, subject to its removal, to William Wilde the younger, (fn. 178) who at about the same time had acquired the Alhambra on the east side of Leicester Square (see page 495). Under his agreement of 11 February 1851 James Wyld had agreed to sell the garden to the Tulk family after the expiry of his licence, and in October 1861 he accordingly sold one undivided moiety to the heir of John Augustus Tulk (I), his son, John Augustus Tulk (II), for £500. (fn. 179) Charles Augustus Tulk's estate had meanwhile been divided amongst seven of his children, (fn. 107) each of whom was entitled to purchase one-seventh of the other undivided moiety of the garden from James Wyld. This property continued in James Wyld's possession until 1868. (fn. 180)
Meanwhile Henry Webb (the owner of the house on the north side of the square with whom James Wyld had also made an agreement in 1851) was becoming restive at Wyld's apparent failure to remove his building and restore the garden, and in April 1862 he filed a bill of complaint in Chancery against James Wyld. The building was now in fact the property of William Wilde of the Alhambra, but he had failed to pay James Wyld for it and after two actions, one in the Court of Queen's Bench and the other in Chancery, James Wyld recovered possession of it in August 1862 and immediately sold it to a contractor for demolition. By November 1862 the building had been entirely removed, (fn. 178) and the garden enclosed by a stone kerb and iron railing. (fn. 85)
Nevertheless the condition of the garden was deplorable; 'the unwashed Arabs of Westminster disported themselves at their own wild will among the putrifying remains of dogs and cats', (fn. 181) and a few years later The Builder stated that the garden had 'long been a scandal to those who have any regard for the proper maintenance of our public monuments, and for the dignity or even for the decency of the metropolis of Great Britain'. (fn. 182) In August 1861 Lord Redesdale had called attention in the House of Commons to the state of Leicester Square and said that he would ask leave to bring in a Bill to enable all parties to make the necessary improvements after the removal of the globe. (fn. 183)
The Act for the 'protection of certain garden or ornamental grounds in Cities and Boroughs', which received the royal assent on 4 May 1863, empowered the Metropolitan Board of Works and corporate authorities in any city or borough to take charge of and improve any neglected enclosed garden or ornamental ground which had been 'set apart otherwise than by the revocable Permission of the Owner … for the Use or Enjoyment of the Inhabitants thereof'. (fn. 184) After the Act had become law the Metropolitan Board of Works inspected all the gardens in London which might be affected by it, (fn. 185) and in January 1865 the Board set up a notice in Leicester Square announcing its intention to take charge of the garden there. (fn. 85)
By this time, however, John Augustus Tulk (II), the owner of one undivided moiety of the garden, had first granted a long lease of his interest to William Wilde of the Alhambra at a rental of £600 per annum, and then in July 1864 agreed to sell his moiety for £12,000 to J. L. Tabberner, a property speculator. By December 1864 Tabberner had acquired Wilde's lease and reached agreement with six of the seven members of the Tulk family, who he wrongly thought were the owners of the other moiety, for the purchase of their supposed interests, only to discover that James Wyld the geographer still owned it. (fn. 186) Tabberner had originally intended to erect 'an ornamental Crystal Palace structure' of iron and glass for use as a market, (fn. 17) but the Bill which he promoted in Parliament was rejected, (fn. 187) and he then proposed to build 'a grand temple of music or opera house'. (fn. 186)
John Augustus Tulk (II) clearly intended to dispose of his moiety of the garden for building purposes, and soon after the Metropolitan Board of Works had erected the notice in the square he brought an action for trespass against the Board in the Court of Queen's Bench. The case was not finally decided until June 1868, when the verdict was given to Tulk, on the grounds that the garden had never been irrevocably dedicated by its owners to the use of the inhabitants or of the public, and that the Act of 1863 therefore did not apply. (fn. 188)
Two months later the future of the garden was still further complicated when James Wyld, acting in accordance with his agreement of II February 1851 with the Tulk family, sold the other undivided moiety of the garden to the seven heirs of Charles Augustus Tulk. The purchase price was one thousand pounds, and in the seven separate conveyances which were required each heir paid Wyld £142 17s. 1d. (fn. 180) In March 1869 the Master of the Rolls dismissed a bill of complaint in which Henry Webb had sought to compel John Augustus Tulk (II) and James Wyld (who by the time the case was heard had ceased to have any connexion with the square) to restore the garden. (fn. 189)
By this time the statue of George I had almost disintegrated. As early as 1851 'a ragged urchin' had been seen 'riding en croupe behind the stately effigy', mocking 'defunct royalty with grimace and antics'. (fn. 190) After the removal of the globe in 1862 the statue had been replaced in its former position, 'with one leg, astride a goblin horse on three legs, propped by stakes', (fn. 191) and on at least one occasion the effigy of the King had been 'thrown from its saddle to the ground'. (fn. 161) During the night of 16–17 October 1866 a number of practical jokers, assisted by the property-room artists of the Alhambra, embellished the grotesque object with a dunce's cap, a broomstick and a rash of painted spots (fn. 192) (fig. 99). In 1868 The Builder publicly castigated John Augustus Tulk (II) for the condition of the garden: 'The Metropolitan Board of Works have laid siege to Mr. Tulk … That individual has set them at defiance, beaten them hollow, and no doubt laughs them to scorn'. (fn. 182) Perhaps Mr. Tulk was not entirely indifferent to such attacks, for when in 1873, in the course of the lawsuit which was to prove his Waterloo, he admitted that the statue had 'been almost entirely destroyed' (although 'not by me or with my consent') he was in fact 'residing at Algiers in Africa for the benefit of my health'. (fn. 85)
In 1869, after five years of negotiation for the purchase of the garden, J. L. Tabberner's business associates abandoned the project through doubt about the legal feasibility of ever building there; John Augustus Tulk (II) then filed a bill of complaint in Chancery against Tabberner demanding the completion of the agreement of July 1864. (fn. 186) This element of doubt encouraged the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1871 to apply to Parliament for power to buy the garden, but a clause in the Bill authorizing the expenditure of up to £50,000 provoked a public outcry, and the Bill was withdrawn. (fn. 193) This failure by the public authorities seems in its turn to have encouraged the speculators again, for in December 1871 a proposal for the construction of a railway station serving a line from Euston to Charing Cross and Waterloo was being mooted; there was also to be a market in the square. (fn. 194)
The legal confusion over the purposes for which the garden could or should be used had now produced deadlock, and John Augustus Tulk (II) appears to have decided to 'shut up shop', at least temporarily. In May 1872 the equestrian statue was sold—presumably at Tulk's orders—for £16, (fn. 195) and in the following December he authorized Ernest Preston, an 'Advertisement Agent', to enclose the garden with a wooden hoarding not exceeding twelve feet in height; the hoarding was to be erected at Preston's expense, and in return he was allowed to use it for 'displaying advertising placards'. This barricade was put up between 8 and 11 January 1873, (fn. 85) and shortly afterwards adorned with advertisements for 'cocoa, cheap trousers, rival circuses, and the largest circulation'. (fn. 196) (fn. 18)
On 13 January 1873 the indefatigable Henry Webb, who had been campaigning on behalf of the residents for over twenty years for the restoration of the garden, filed a bill of complaint in Chancery praying for the removal of the hoarding. John Augustus Tulk (II), now safely in Algiers, replied that he had 'no present intention of building', but that he and the owners of the other undivided moiety had a legal right to do so if they desired. (fn. 85) On 5 December the Master of the Rolls finally terminated the legal tangle about the garden when he ruled that the Tulk family was not at liberty to use the ground for any purpose except as a garden. He therefore directed that the hoarding should be removed, and prohibited the erection of any building on the ground, or of any fence around it other than a stone kerb and iron railing. (fn. 197)
The Metropolitan Board of Works immediately applied to Parliament for power to buy the garden (fn. 197) but on 23 January 1874 the Board received a letter from Albert Grant announcing that 'he had for some months past been in negotiation with the owners for the purchase of the ground with a view to laying it out as a garden, and handing it over to the Board as a gift to the Metropolis'. He hoped that the Board would proceed with the Bill, so that if he failed to buy any interest, the Board would be able to do so compulsorily. (fn. 198)
Albert Grant (1830–1899), better known as Baron Grant, was a pioneer of modern mammoth company promoting, and at this time he was M.P. for Kidderminster. (fn. 19) His quixotic gesture in purchasing the garden of Leicester Square for the public provides a redeeming feature in his flamboyant career, for only four years later his resources were irredeemably shattered by a series of actions in the bankruptcy court, and by 1879 his affairs were in liquidation. (fn. 66)
Grant's 'munificent offer was gladly accepted by the Board', (fn. 198) whose Bill received the royal assent on 8 June 1874. (fn. 199) In April Grant had acquired John Augustus Tulk's undivided moiety for £,3,250, (fn. 200) and by six separate conveyances, all dated in June of the same year, he bought six-sevenths of the other undivided moiety from the heirs or assignees of Charles Augustus Tulk. The owner of the final share had recently died in Australia, and the conveyance to Grant was not completed until October 1874. (fn. 201) The total cost of buying out the Tulk family's multifarious interests was £11,060. (fn. 20)
The ground was rapidly laid out at Grant's expense to the design of James Knowles (Plate 51). The marble fountain, also designed by Knowles, is a curious concoction of Italianate motifs, dominated by G. Fontana's statue of Shakespeare, based on the Baroque original in Westminster Abbey carved by Peter Scheemakers. The statue is placed high on a plain square pedestal, above three steppings forming a circular base, broken by diagonally projecting plinth-blocks supporting dolphins. This stepped base is surrounded by a circular basin, and an outer ring of flower beds, divided by horizontal consoles projecting radially from the basin's rim to meet the pedestals and low vases that break the outer kerb, which is crested with an iron railing of anthemion pattern.
John Gibson, junior, was the landscape gardener, and the fountain was made by Messrs. Yates, Haywood and Company. The busts of Reynolds, John Hunter, Hogarth and Newton were by H. Weekes, T. Woolner, J. Durham and W. Calder Marshall respectively. (fn. 202) At the opening ceremony on 3 July 1874 Grant formally handed over the title-deeds of the ground to the Board of Works, which later recorded with understandable relief that 'Thus the once dreary and desolate piece of ground has been transferred into a beautiful garden, adorned with statuary, and that it is thoroughly appreciated by the public is shown by the numbers who throughout the summer and autumn thronged the enclosure'. (fn. 203)
The garden is now vested in the Greater London Council; its maintenance was transferred to Westminster City Council in 1933. (fn. 204)