Leicester Square, North Side, and Lisle Street Area: Leicester Estate, Lisle Street

Pages 472-476

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

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Lisle Street

Lisle Street was built in two parts. The western half was laid out in 1682–3 on part of the site of the garden of Leicester House (see page 427). In 1791 or 1792 Leicester House and its garden and out-buildings were acquired by Thomas Wright of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, (fn. 2) a banker in the firm of Wright, Selby and Robinson. He extended Lisle Street eastward across the northern part of this ground to join Little Newport Street. The extension of Lisle Street was at first called New Lisle Street.

Between 2 March 1792 and 7 May 1795 Wright granted twenty-one leases of ground on either side of Lisle Street, all for terms of between ninety-six and ninety-nine years. With one exception (James Morem, baker) (fn. 3) all the lessees were building tradesmen, who were probably acting in partnership. They were William Brooks of Castle Street, St. George's, Bloomsbury, mason (fn. 4) (twelve leases), John Simmons of Goswell Street, surveyor, who was possibly the architect of the houses (two leases, each for two houses), (fn. 5) William Wickerstaff of New Lisle Street, plasterer (two leases), (fn. 6) and (one lease each) Thomas Jefferies of Carnaby Street, painter and glazier, (fn. 7) William Luxton of Exeter Street, bricklayer, (fn. 8) Titus Taylor of Little Denmark Street, St. Giles's, carpenter, (fn. 9) and William Woodcock of St. Martin's Lane, plumber. (fn. 10)

A few artists gave Lisle Street as their address in exhibition catalogues, namely: Edward Francis Burney, painter, 1802–3; Nicholas Toussaint Charlet, painter, 1834; John Eckstein, painter, 1797; J. George Sigmund Facius, miniature painter, 1788; Alexander Pope, miniature painter, 1804–5; Samuel John Stump, miniature painter, 1803.

No. 1 Lisle Street: the Falcon Public House

The original house on the north corner of Princes Street was occupied from an early date by a victualler; from 1731, at least, it was called the Falcon. (fn. 11) The present Falcon public house combines the site of the corner house and the adjacent site eastwards.

No. 5 Lisle Street: St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin

The original No. 5 was one of the larger houses in Lisle Street. It was let, together with a coach-house and a stable, on 24 December 1683, by the direction of Richard Frith, bricklayer, to Michael Rolles of London, merchant, for fortyone years at a peppercorn for the first year and three pounds per annum thereafter. (fn. 12)

Occupants have included: the Right Honourable Lady 'Darkey', (fn. 13) ? the wife (d. 1689/90) of Lord Darcy and Conyers, later second Earl of Holdernesse, 1688; (fn. 12) Lord William Paulet, M.P., second son of the first Duke of Bolton, (fn. 14) 1691–4; (fn. 15) Arthur Herbert, first Earl of Torrington, formerly admiral of the fleet, (fn. 16) 1694–7 (fn. 15) (?); the Hon. Robert Cecil, M.P., second son of the third Earl of Salisbury, (fn. 14) (?) 1700–16; his widow, 1717; Bulstrode Peachey Knight, M.P., who moved from here to No. 75 Dean Street, 1725–34; (fn. 15) James Edward Oglethorpe, brigadier-general, M.P., and colonist of Georgia, (fn. 16) 1747–55; the Hon. Mrs. Verney, 1757–60; (fn. 15) John Peyto Verney, fourteenth Baron Willoughby de Broke, (fn. 14) 1761; MajorGeneral John Thomas, 1768–75; (fn. 15) and Anthony Le Texier, actor, who gave readings of 'French Dramatic Pieces' to 'numerous and fashionable audiences' here, and performed in the privately produced plays of the Pic-Nic Club, (fn. 17) 1783– 1803 or 1804. (fn. 15)

The present No. 5 (Plate 140d) was designed by Frank T. Verity in 1897. (fn. 18) It has a highly picturesque front in the early Renaissance style of northern Europe, a well composed design dominated by a three-storeyed oriel placed centrally below a great gable, its stepped profile decorated with inverted consoles and crowned with an obelisk. Now painted in two colours, the front appears to be built of pale terra-cotta.

The building was first occupied in 1900 by the French Club and subsequently by Pathé of France and Pathéscope Limited, film-makers. Since 1935 it has been in the possession of St. John's Hospital. (fn. 19)

St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin was founded in 1863 at No. 12 Church Street, Soho, by John Laws Milton, a surgeon who specialized in skin diseases. In 1865 it was moved to No. 45 Leicester Square where it remained until 1887. In that year it removed to No. 49 Leicester Square and in 1935 was transferred to its present home at No. 5 Lisle Street. (fn. 20)

After the move to No. 45 Leicester Square in 1865 the hospital, at which the medical officer had previously attended once a week, was open daily at 2 p.m. There was also an evening clinic once a week, which enabled the 'artisan classes' to attend 'without it being known that they are afflicted with a skin disease' and thus to avoid the risk of dismissal from their employment. (fn. 21) During the late 1860's the hospital began to take in-patients, and usually had about a dozen beds. The number of new out-patients gradually increased from 1,442 in 1876 to 4,298 in 1886, while from 1883 to 1886 seventeen beds were available for in-patients at an annexe at No. 17 Markham Square, Chelsea. (fn. 22)

In 1886 the lease of No. 45 Leicester Square expired, the Markham Square annexe was closed and in the following year the hospital moved to No. 49 Leicester Square. The accommodation there was described as 'spacious, with commodious entrance hall, the staircase light and easy of ascent, rooms light, lofty and airy. The extensive basement could be readily adapted for an excellent bath department and dispensary; there was considerable space at the back which could easily be utilised for a doctor's room and waiting room for out-patients'. (fn. 23)

By the early years of the twentieth century the hospital was treating nearly 8,000 new outpatients a year (fn. 24) and in 1905 No. 49 Leicester Square was rebuilt. It was completed and equipped at a cost of a little over £10,000, and was thought to be 'spacious enough to meet all demands that may be made upon it in years to come'. (fn. 25) Since 1864 courses in dermatology were held at the hospital, and in 1923 the London School (now the Institute) of Dermatology was established here. In 1948 St. John's was designated as a teaching hospital within the National Health Service. (fn. 26)

By 1934 the hospital was treating 54,453 out-patients and the existing accommodation was inadequate. Accordingly the Board of Management purchased No. 5 Lisle Street for £25,000. Plans for the necessary internal alterations, estimated to cost an additional £8,000, were prepared by the honorary architect, A. Bryett. (fn. 27) Alterations began in the summer of 1935 and the hospital moved into No. 5 Lisle Street at the end of the year. (fn. 25) The new premises, which were opened on 1 January 1936, (fn. 28) were described as 'bright, airy and cheerful, and …so planned that the patients attending, numbering over a thousand per week, may be dealt with rapidly'. (fn. 25) By 1938 the total number of out-patients attending had risen to 65,798. (fn. 29) In 1950 the hospital premises were extended northwards over the sites of Nos. 28–29 Gerrard Street and the Westminster General Dispensary at No. 9 Gerrard Street was rented by St. John's from 1954 to 1962. In 1962 No. 30 Gerrard Street was also taken over by the hospital. (fn. 28) Plans for removal to Chelsea are now under consideration. (fn. 30)

Nos. 6–8 (consec.) Lisle Street

No. 8 demolished

The present Nos. 6 and 7 are early nineteenthcentury houses. No. 8 was demolished in 1904 for the National Telephone Company's exchange, replaced in 1935–7 by the present General Post Office building (see page 400).

The three original houses were noticeably smaller than No. 5 Lisle Street and had fewer occupants of interest. They included: (fn. 15) (No. 6) the Earl of Ailesbury, who owned the large house in Leicester Square next to Leicester House, 1691–2; Sir William Moore or More of Stamford, Lincolnshire, fifth baronet, (fn. 31) 1780–7; (No. 7) Lady Stapleton, 1701, probably the widow of Sir William Stapleton, baronet, Governor of the Leeward Islands; (fn. 31) Sir Clement Cotterell, master of the ceremonies, (fn. 16) 1712–19; and (No. 8) Captain Medley, 1743–4, ? Henry Medley, captain and later vice-admiral. (fn. 16)

Nos. 9 and 10 Lisle Street


This was originally a single large house, divided or rebuilt as two in the nineteenth century. Occupants have included: (fn. 15) Lord Henry Scott, later first Earl of Deloraine, (fn. 16) who subsequently occupied No. 46 Leicester Square, 1704; Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Thomas Stanwix, Governor of Gibraltar, (fn. 32) 1706–11; Lady Gascoyne, 1714–18, 1720–2, probably the widow of Sir Thomas Gascoigne of Barnbow, Yorkshire, fourth baronet (but see No. 5 Leicester Street); (fn. 31) Lady Sarah Cooper, 1730–3; Dr. William Egerton, Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, (fn. 33) 1736–7 or 1738; Colonel Onslow, 1738, ? Colonel Richard Onslow, son of Foote Onslow; (fn. 34) Dr. Samuel Lisle (Bishop of St. Asaph 1744, Bishop of Norwich 1748, died 1749), 1739–49; and Dr. Francis Ayscough, formerly clerk of the closet to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and preceptor to his son Prince George (George III), (fn. 16) 1751–62.

In 1904 the two houses on the site were demolished for the erection of the National Telephone Company's exchange, which was replaced by the present General Post Office building in 1935–7 (see page 400).

Nos. 11–13 (consec.) Lisle Street


The original house on this site was about the same size as No. 5, but had the advantage of overlooking the garden of Leicester House. It was let on 25 November 1687 to Andrew Card (fn. 35) of Gray's Inn, esquire, (fn. 36) and occupied from 1691 or earlier by William Cheyne, second Viscount Newhaven, who probably moved here from a house in Gerrard Street (see Nos. 36–39 Gerrard Street). Lord Newhaven occupied this house until his death in 1727. His widow Gertrude (née Pierrepont) lived here until 1732. (fn. 15)

In 1733 Lady Newhaven's brother-in-law, John Leveson-Gower, second Baron, and later first Earl Gower, took the house, probably on the occasion of his second marriage. His second wife died shortly afterwards and he married a third time in 1736, leaving the house in Lisle Street in that year. (fn. 15)

Dr. Ayscough occupied the house in 1747–51, having left No. 45 Gerrard Street to make way for the pages of Frederick, Prince of Wales; he moved from here to Nos. 9–10 Lisle Street, to make way for the maids of honour of the Princess of Wales. The maids of honour were lodged here from 1751 to 1762 but in 1763, shortly before Dr. Ayscough's death, the house reverted to the Ayscough family who continued to occupy it until 1776. In 1782 the house was turned into a shop. (fn. 15)

From 1808 to 1931 the site was occupied by the Royal Society of Musicians (now at No. 10 Stratford Place) and by two shops belonging to the society. The society was founded in 1738 as a charity to help musicians, or members of their families, who were in need. Some 220 members joined initially, including the composers Arne, Pepusch and Handel. The latter was a great benefactor to the society; he gave the first English performance of his Messiah for its benefit, and bequeathed it one thousand pounds in his will. In 1790 the society secured a royal charter from King George III, who was another important benefactor. (fn. 37)

The affairs of the society are administered by twelve governors who meet monthly. Until 1807 they met in taverns. In that year the society took rooms at No. 10 Panton Square, off Coventry Street, but in 1808 it bought a plot of freehold ground on the north side of Lisle Street from Thomas Wright for £700. (fn. 38)

At the annual general meeting held on 15 July 1808 the society authorized the house committee to erect a building there 'for the use of the Society as they shall judge will be most for the advantage of it'. (fn. 39)

The first annual general meeting of the society to be held in the new building took place on 25 June 1809, when a motion of thanks was passed to 'Mr. Hopper' for 'the great Assistance he has afforded the House Committee in drawing the Plans, and superintending the building of the room we are now assembled in', and he was requested to accept a life subscription as a mark of gratitude. (fn. 39) This was presumably Thomas Hopper (1776–1856) who was then commencing his career as a fashionable architect, having added a Gothic conservatory to Carlton House for the Prince of Wales in 1807. (fn. 40)

The building which Hopper designed was divided into three separate premises, Nos. 11–13. A survey plan, made shortly before demolition, shows that the society's board-room, some thirty-seven feet long and twenty feet wide, was placed at the back of the site. (fn. 41) The doorway centred in the long south wall was reached by a corridor extending north from the entrance porch in Lisle Street. On either side of the corridor was a shop. A watercolour of 1886 in the collection of the Greater London Council gives an oblique view of the simply designed front. The recessed porch, dressed with Doric columns in antis supporting a triglyphed entablature, was flanked by projecting shop fronts. The plain upper face, of stucco or whitened brick, contained two tiers of three widely spaced windows, those in the middle set in a round-headed shallow recess.

A photograph (fn. 42) and a drawing by Hanslip Fletcher (Plate 41a) show that the board-room was decorated in the Grecian style of the Regency period. A chimney-breast projected from each end wall, the fireplace having a typical reeded-andstopped architrave chimneypiece of marble, but the dominating features of the room were the surrounds to the doorway and a corresponding recess in the north wall. The doorway, dressed with a cornice resting on scroll-consoles, was set in a segmental-arched recess, flanked by paired Doric pilasters supporting an entablature of frieze and cornice. The pilaster shafts were decorated with Soanic incised frets, and on the frieze above them were laurel wreaths. The walls were left plain as a ground for pictures, and from the simple cornice a plain cove rose to the flat ceiling surrounding the oval skylight.

In 1866 the society amalgamated with the Royal Society of Female Musicians, and when it removed to Stratford Place in 1931 it had about 430 members. (fn. 43) The move was made necessary by the expansion of the neighbouring telephone exchange which now covers the site.

Nos. 14–27 (consec.), 34 and 35 Lisle Street

The eastward extension of Lisle Street in the early 1790's was planned as a uniform street lined with medium-sized houses, generally twenty feet wide, containing shops and having living accommodation in two upper storeys and a mansard garret (Plate 53). Many of the houses had good shop fronts of varying design (Plates 134a, 134c), below an upper face of yellow stock bricks dressed with a narrow sill-band of Roman cement to the second-floor windows, and a modillion cornice of stone below the brick parapet. With a few exceptions, every house had two windows in each storey, furnished with barred sashes recessed in plain openings having thinly stuccoed reveals, and flat arches of gauged brickwork. Nos. 17, 18 and 19, on the north side, form a closing feature to the vista along Leicester Place. The middle house, No. 18, is broken slightly forward from its neighbours and was originally enriched with Roman cement. This was used for the moulded architraves of the firstfloor windows, and for the apron tablet, frieze and dentilled cornice taking the place of the secondfloor sill-band. The apron tablet, which extended above the two first-floor windows, had lugged ends dressed with guttae, and was boldly lettered LEICESTER HOUSE. The narrow frieze on either side was decorated with paterae. Above the main cornice is a triangular pediment, its brick tympanum containing an oblong tablet inscribed NEW LISLE STREET MDCCXCI. (fn. 1) Although the flanking houses were generally similar to the rest of the terrace, they were finished with an open balustrade. No. 18 has lost much of its ornament and the brickwork has been crudely painted, while the cornice and balustrade of each flanking house has been replaced with a plain parapet. Many of the original shop fronts have been replaced and those remaining have been mutilated. On the south side only two houses survive—Nos. 34 and 35.

No. 41 Lisle Street


The original house on this site was the largest in Lisle Street; it adjoined the garden wall of Leicester House on the east and Ailesbury House on the south. Like the house opposite, it was probably originally let to Andrew Card. (fn. 36)

The first known occupant was Sir Richard Temple, the third baronet and politician, in 1691–4. He was followed by John Jeffreys, second Baron Jeffreys and son of the judge, from 1694 until his death in 1702. He obtained the public funeral for Dryden which occasioned the story mentioned on page 410 n. Lady Jeffreys continued to live here until 1703. (fn. 44)

Later occupants included: (fn. 15) the Danish envoy, Ivar Rosencrantz, (fn. 45) 1704–5, who subsequently lived at No. 10–11 Leicester Street; Lady Anne Popham, daughter of Ralph Montagu, first Duke of Montagu, widow of Alexander Popham of Littlecote, Wiltshire, 1706; (fn. 46) her cousin, whom she married in 1707, Lieutenant-General Daniel Harvey, M.P., (fn. 47) 1707–32; Lady Harvey, 1733–42; Henry Dillon, eleventh Viscount Dillon, 1745–6; and Thomas Hayter, Bishop of Norwich, preceptor to the Prince of Wales (George III), (fn. 16) 1751–61.

In 1783 the house became a shop; (fn. 15) its site now forms part of the Empire Theatre.

Nos. 42–44 (consec.) Lisle Street


The site of No. 42 was originally the entrance to the stable-yard of Ailesbury House. Occupants of interest of the two other fairly small houses included: (fn. 15) (No. 43) Dr. Vernon, 1706– 18; Lord John Kerr, 1720–5; Sir George Walter, 1740–2; Lady Walter, 1743–52; (No. 44) Lady Browne, 1691; Lady Fairborne, widow of Sir Palmes Fairborne, (fn. 16) 1694; James Craggs, c. 1697–1700,? the elder James Craggs, Postmaster-General, M.P., promoter of the South Sea Company; (fn. 16) Sir Stafford Fairborne, son of Sir Palmes, knight, admiral of the fleet, (fn. 16) 1701–8; and Lady Gillmore, 1756.

The three sites are now occupied by the Empire Theatre.

Swedenborgian Meeting-room, Lisle Street

In 1813 the congregation of Swedenborgians led by Dr. Joseph Proud relinquished the chapel in York Street, St. James's Square, (fn. 48) and 'removed to a small and obscure room in Lisle-street, …which was fitted up at a great cost'. Dr. Proud retired to Birmingham in the following year, and the congregation in Lisle Street dwindled. (fn. 49) The situation of the meeting-room in Lisle Street is not known.


  • 1. It may be noted that although the tablet bears the date 1791, the earliest of Wright's leases were dated 2 March 1792.
  • 2. Colvin; The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal, March 1844, p. 118.
  • 3. M.L.R. 1794/1/162.
  • 4. Ibid., 1793/5/149; 1795/3/191–3, 197–202, 205–6.
  • 5. Ibid., 1793/6/705–6.
  • 6. Ibid., 1794/4/210–11.
  • 7. Ibid., 1793/1/567.
  • 8. Ibid., 1794/4/661.
  • 9. Ibid., 1792/7/536.
  • 10. Ibid., 1792/5/378.
  • 11. W.P.L., Deed 67/34; G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W) 43/1.
  • 12. W.P.L., Deed 67/15.
  • 13. G.E.C.
  • 14. Burke's Peerage.
  • 15. R.B.
  • 16. D.N.B.
  • 17. The Picture of London, 1803, p. 210; The Pic Nic, vol. I, 1803, preface; The Times, 7, 30 April 1802.
  • 18. Inscription on building.
  • 19. P.O.D.
  • 20. Brian Russell, St. Johns Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, 1863–1963, 1963, pp. 2, 5–6.
  • 21. Ibid., p. 10.
  • 22. Ibid., pp. 11–12, 59–60.
  • 23. Ibid., pp. 10–11.
  • 24. Ibid., p. 60.
  • 25. Annual Report of St. Johns Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, 1935.
  • 26. Russell, op. cit., pp. 33–9.
  • 27. Annual Report of St. Johns Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, 1934.
  • 28. Russell, op. cit., p. 11.
  • 29. Annual Report of St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, 1938.
  • 30. Russell, op. cit., pp. 43–4.
  • 31. G.E.C. (Baronetage).
  • 32. C. Dalton, English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661–1714, vol. V, 1902, p. 163.
  • 33. John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1854.
  • 34. C. Dalton, George the First's Army 1714–1727, vol. I, 1910, p. 221.
  • 35. G.L.R.O., Harben deeds X 143.
  • 36. Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/2.
  • 37. London Symphony Observer, 1950, vol. I, no. 7, The Royal Society of Musicians.
  • 38. Royal Society of Musicians, minutes of governors' meetings; M.L.R. 1808/5/579.
  • 39. Royal Society of Musicians, minutes of annual general meetings.
  • 40. Colvin; and additional information privately supplied by Mr. Colvin.
  • 41. Information kindly supplied by the Ministry of Public Building and Works.
  • 42. J. H. Cardwell and others, Two Centuries of Soho, 1898, p. 77.
  • 43. London Symphony Observer, loc. cit.; information supplied by the society.
  • 44. R.B.; D.N.B.
  • 45. Cal. Treasury Books 1705–1706, pp. 118, 444.
  • 46. Burke's Peerage; Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/2.
  • 47. C. Dalton, English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661–1714, vol. III, 1896, p. 176.
  • 48. Survey of London, vol. XXIX, 1960, p. 118.
  • 49. Joseph Proud, The Aged Minister's Last Legacy, with Memoir of the Author by Rev. E. Madeley, 2nd ed., 1854, pp. xvi–xviii.