Leicester Square, South Side: Leicester Estate, Nos 31-42 Leicester Square and Spur Street

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

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'Leicester Square, South Side: Leicester Estate, Nos 31-42 Leicester Square and Spur Street', in Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho, (London, 1966) pp. 504-506. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols33-4/pp504-506 [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


Leicester Square, South Side: Leicester Estate

THE south side of Leicester Square (which, like the east side, is in the parish of St. Martin, see fig. 94 on page 417) was the earliest to be developed, although when the first houses were built here in the 1660's Lord Leicester's concept of a great square may not yet have taken precise shape.

This early development was the work of Anthony Ellis, a mason of St. Martin's, who in April 1664 took a lease for thirty-one years of a triangular piece of Leicester Field which was bounded on the west by Hedge Lane and on the south by a brick wall which separated the field from the Blue Mews. (fn. 2) (fn. 1) This piece of land, represented on fig. 94 by the block marked H, had a frontage of 162 feet. Ellis covenanted to build two or more houses at a cost of £150 within two years and to enclose them with a brick wall eight feet high. (fn. 2)

By 1666 Ellis had built five houses, (fn. 3) of which the first to be occupied was No. 40. (fn. 4) The other four houses, between No. 40 and Hedge Lane, were set back slightly behind gardens (see Plate 2). Ellis evidently failed to provide the brick wall which he had covenanted to build, for in 1666 Lord Leicester granted him a lease of another piece of ground in front of the four houses, on which to build the wall. On this additional piece of land, a thin triangular strip nine feet wide at the Hedge Lane end, Ellis again agreed to build the wall, with doors in it to give access to the houses. (fn. 5)

This extension of Ellis's ground blocked the existing opening into Leicester Field in the brick wall which separated the field from Colman Hedge Lane (see page 432). Ellis was therefore authorized to dismantle a portion of the old wall and to make a new gateway eight feet broad, slightly to the north of the old opening. (fn. 5)

In 1670 Lord Leicester entered into agreements with Ellis and other builders to continue the development of Leicester Field and Swan Close. When the west side of Leicester Square (fig. 94, block 1) was set out, the opening made by Ellis into Hedge Lane was widened and room was left for a short street between the new buildings and Ellis's original houses, which thus formed the north and south sides respectively of the new street, called Spur Street.

The remainder of the south side of the square (fig. 94, block G) was developed by William Tinker, joiner, of St. Martin's. He entered into an agreement in May 1670 to take a lease of a triangular piece of land 203 feet long which extended from Ellis's land to the south-east corner of the square, where it had a depth of 62 feet. (fn. 6) Tinker's lease was granted on 20 June 1670, (fn. 7) and under his covenant (which stipulated that four or more houses should be built within two years, uniform and ranging with Ellis's), he erected four houses facing Leicester Square and one facing Green Street and the alley to Long's Court. (fn. 4) They were occupied by 1673. (fn. 8) The extreme eastern piece of his land was left open in order to permit entrance to and from the square through Green Street.

The frontages of the original ten houses on the south side were unusually wide compared with other houses in the square, Ellis's five sharing 162 feet between them and Tinker's five sharing about 150 feet on to Leicester Square and 62 feet on to Green Street; but their depths were shallower than those of the other houses in the square. Subsequent alterations have completely obscured the original house plots, and the house numbers given below and on fig. 94 are those which were last in use when individual houses still existed.

About 1691–2 the third Earl of Leicester sold the freehold of one of Tinker's houses to Nicholas Cooke, who was then developing land to the south in the Blue Mews. (fn. 9) The house was demolished in 1692 to open a way through from the square to the Blue Mews (St. Martin's Street), and two houses, with very narrow frontages to the square (see Plate 51b), were built on either side of the entrance. (fn. 10)

By the certificate of partition of 1788 all of the ground on the south side of the square (plots G and H on fig. 94) was awarded to the Tulk family. In 1807 plot G, to the east of St. Martin's Street, came into the possession of Charles Augustus Tulk, while plot H, to the west of St. Martin's Street, was retained by John Augustus Tulk (I). Both plots were subsequently divided amongst their descendants (see pages 422–3).

Nos. 31–36 (consec.) Leicester Square


The site of these houses is now occupied by the Royal Dental Hospital of London. Inhabitants are listed below.

No. 34

Richard Lestock, later Admiral of the Blue, (fn. 11) 1714–18; (fn. 4) Paul Whitehead, satirist, (fn. 11) 1738–45; (fn. 4) and Samuel Finney, miniature painter to Queen Charlotte, (fn. 11) 1756–67. (fn. 4)

No. 35

Elizabeth Buckshorn, 1684–91, (fn. 4) ? widow of Joseph Buckshorn, the Dutch painter, pupil of Sir Peter Lely. (fn. 11) This house was taken in 1766, (fn. 4) a few years after his return from the Near East and the publication of The Antiquities of Athens, by James Stuart, the painter and architect. (fn. 11) Stuart had succeeded Hogarth as serjeant-painter in 1764 and held the post until its abolition in 1782. He was surveyor of Greenwich Hospital until his death at the house in the square on 2 February 1788. (fn. 12) J. T. Smith mentions that Stuart had built a large room at the back of his house where he exhibited several of his drawings and that his parlour was decorated with prints by Hogarth. (fn. 13) A later occupant was John Rising, (fn. 4) painter, who exhibited from this address at the Royal Academy in 1792–3.

No. 36

Apsley Pellatt, apothecary, (fn. 14) from whom the prominent glass manufacturer and M.P. for Southwark of the same name no doubt descended, (fn. 15) 1738 till his death in 1741; Anna Millicent King, 1757–61, (fn. 4) who was horridly murdered by her lodger, Théodore Gardelle, a Swiss miniature painter (he 'carried bits of her about in parcels', and deposited her entrails 'in the boghouse'): (fn. 16) and Edward Fisher, mezzotint engraver, who engraved several of Reynolds's portraits, (fn. 11) 1761–77. (fn. 4) Fisher advertised from the Golden Head in Leicester Fields and may therefore have lodged after 1777 with Hogarth's widow at No. 30. (fn. 17)

No. 37

Lewis Mettayer, plate-worker and jeweller (fn. 18) (perhaps a relative of Samuel Mettayer, see page 294), 1727–8; George Knapton, portrait painter, (fn. 11) 1739–40; and George Desnoyers, the ballet-dancer (see also No. 20), 1743–4. (fn. 4)

Nos. 31–36 (consec.) Leicester Square: The Royal Dental Hospital Of London

The Dental Hospital of London was established in 1858 and was housed at No. 32 Soho Square from 1860 to 1873. In 1874 it removed to Nos. 40–41 Leicester Square. In 1897 the number of patients treated was over 62,000, and the existing accommodation inadequate. A larger site was therefore acquired, comprising all of the ground on the south side of the square to the east of St. Martin's Street. The line of frontage at each end of the site was set back to provide for the widening of Green (now Irving) Street and of St. Martin's Street, and in 1899–1901 the present building was erected to the designs of Messrs. Young and Hall. The cost of the building was nearly £50,000, and the contractors were Messrs. Trollope. In 1901 King Edward VII granted royal patronage to the hospital. (fn. 19)

The hospital front is an eclectic Renaissance design, built in red brick and buff terra-cotta. There are four lofty storeys above an arcade containing shop fronts and mezzanine windows. The composition is asymmetrical, with two bays in the curved face to the left, and three bays in the straight face to the right of the entrance feature, which is three windows wide.

Nos. 40–42 (consec.) Leicester Square: The Leicester Square Theatre

The original house at No. 40 appears to have been the first erected in Leicester Square. Priscilla Tatton is given as the occupier in 1666–74 but as Dorothy Ellis was rated here in 1674–85 (fn. 4) it seems possible that this was the house in Leicester Fields for which her husband, Anthony Ellis, owed tax on ten hearths shortly before his death in 1671. (fn. 20) His name does not appear in the ratebooks as an occupant of any other house, and Priscilla Tatton was possibly a relative. Later occupants were Philip Mercier, portrait painter, appointed, in 1727, principal painter to Frederick, Prince of Wales, (fn. 11) 1720–6 or 1727; (fn. 4) and (Sir) Thomas de Veil, a half-pay officer and justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster, (fn. 21) 1729–37. (fn. 4)

In the middle years of the nineteenth century No. 40 was occupied by the National Philanthropic Association and the Poor Man's Guardian Society. (fn. 22) A soup kitchen was established here by these organizations in February 1847 which, despite lack of funds, continued to distribute relief for some years, and in 1851 'substantial Christmas fare' was supplied to ten thousand families. (fn. 23) In 1873 Nos. 40 and 41 were demolished for the erection of a new building on their combined sites (Plate 51b). This was occupied by the Dental Hospital of London from 1874 to 1901. (fn. 24)

Occupants of the former No. 41 include Thomas Brand, while he was M.P. for Arundel, (fn. 25) 1774–80 (fn. 4) (see also No. 1 Soho Square), and William Cruikshank, the anatomist, (fn. 26) 1781–8 (fn. 4) (see also No. 49 Leicester Square). The former No. 42 was occupied by George Hutchins, 1683–8, (fn. 4) ? the King's Serjeant, knighted 1689. (fn. 11)

The whole of the south side of Leicester Square to the west of St. Martin's Street is now occupied by the Leicester Square Theatre block. Sir Walter Gibbons, who was responsible for the building of the London Palladium and the Haymarket Capitol, headed the promoters of the theatre, which aimed at providing a house equipped for a wide variety of types of entertainment; the main part of the Leicester Square front was to be devoted to an independent block of offices and a large flat designed for occupation by Jack Buchanan. The theatre was designed by Andrew Mather and the general contractors were Gee, Walker and Slater Limited. (fn. 27) It opened as a cinema on 19 December 1930, with Viennese Nights, (fn. 28) and except for a brief period of experiment in 1931–3 it has been used as a cinema ever since. (fn. 29)

Built of white glazed terra-cotta, the front of the Leicester Square Theatre is an asymmetrical composition, dominated by the upper face of the entrance feature where three attenuated window arches are flanked by wide fluted piers and finished with a heavy modillioned cornice, surmounted by a pedimented attic. The interior, which has been altered and redecorated since the theatre was first opened, calls for no comment.

Spur Street


The formation of Spur Street began with the building of houses on the south side in 1664–6 by Anthony Ellis, who also had a lease of the ground on the north side in 1670 (see page 507). The houses on the north side were completed by 1675 and the name appears to have come into general use by 1735. (fn. 4) On the formation of the parish of St. Anne's in 1686 the north side of the street was taken into the new parish and the south side was left in St. Martin's.

Thomas Coram, who established the Foundling Hospital, (fn. 11) occupied a house on the north side in 1750. (fn. 4)

Spur Street was the address given by several artists in exhibition catalogues, the most notable being John Constable in 1805–6; others included John Dixon, engraver, 1766–7; James Nixon, miniature painter, 1780–1; John N. Sartorius, painter, 1785–6, 1795–9, 1807–8; and J. W. Slater, painter, 1803.


  • 1. The Blue Mews stood at the north end of a two-acre close which was also part of St. Martin's Field (Plate , marked 'W') and is described in Survey of London, volume XX. Ellis at his death in 1671 owned leases of houses in the Blue Mews, Pall Mall and St. Martin's Lane. In 1651 he was living in the Blue Mews.
  • 2. De L'Isle deeds, bundle 555, deed of 10 April 1664.
  • 3. De L'Isle deeds, bundle 555, deed of 20 June 1666.
  • 4. R.B.
  • 5. De L'Isle MSS., 1133(k); De L'Isle deeds, bundle 555, deed of 20 June 1666.
  • 6. De L'Isle MSS., 1133(j).
  • 7. De L'Isle deeds, bundle 555, deed of 20 June 1670.
  • 8. Ibid., bundle 552, deed of 24 June 1673.
  • 9. P.R.O., C54/4744, no. 30.
  • 10. G.L.R.O.(M), Acc. 401/92.
  • 11. D.N.B.
  • 12. Colvin.
  • 13. J. T. Smith, Nollekens and his Times, 1828, vol. I, p. 38.
  • 14. P.C.C., 74 Spurway.
  • 15. D.N.B.; Survey of London, vol. XXII, 1950, p. 114.
  • 16. Smith, op. cit., vol. 2, 1828, p. 212; J. Hollingshead, The Story of Leicester Square, 1892, pp. 38–9; W.P.L., Leicester Square Scrapbook, vol. I, p. 48; E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire … des Peintres, 1911–.
  • 17. W.P.L., Leicester Square Scrapbook, vol. I, p. 41.
  • 18. Sir Ambrose Heal, The London Goldsmiths 1200–1800, 1935.
  • 19. Annual Reports of the [Royal] Dental Hospital of London, 1899–1902, passim (copies in G.L.C. Members' Library); P.O.D.
  • 20. Cal. Treasury Books 1669–1672, p. 915.
  • 21. P.R.O., T53/37, pp. 376–7; W. A. Shaw, The Knights of England, 1906.
  • 22. P.O.D.
  • 23. The Illustrated London News, 19 Feb. 1848, p. 107; The Builder, 27 Dec. 1851, p. 817; W.P.L., Leicester Square Scrapbook, vol. I, pp. 72–5.
  • 24. M.B.W. 437, 24 Oct. 1873, item 38; P.O.D.
  • 25. The History of Parliament. The House of Commons 1754–1790, ed. Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, 1964.
  • 26. P.R.O., C12/979/14; D.N.B.
  • 27. The Builder, 19 Dec. 1930, p. 1040.
  • 28. The Times, 5, 20 Dec. 1930.
  • 29. Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, The Theatres of London, 1963 ed., p. 272.
  • 30. Survey of London, vol. XX, 1940, chapter I 5.
  • 31. P.C.C., 121 Duke.
  • 32. P.R.O., E317/Midd. 73.