Leicester Square, West Side: Leicester Estate, Nos 43-54 Leicester Square

Pages 507-514

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

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Leicester Square, West Side: Leicester Estate

The whole of the west side of Leicester Field (fig. 94 on page 417), between the open square and Colman Hedge Lane (now Whitcomb Street) was developed under a single building lease granted to Anthony Ellis on 20 June 1670 for forty-two years at an annual ground rent of £44. (fn. 5) Eleven houses were built fronting the square (fn. 6) but they were certainly not completed before Ellis's death in 1671. (fn. 7) Elias Lock of St. Giles in the Fields, coachman, and of Chevening, Kent, who had building leases in Green Street, had a lease of No. 43; (fn. 8) Richard Gaspole or Glaspole of St. Martin's and St. James's, carpenter, had a lease of No. 45; (fn. 9) Anthony Mathewes had a lease, probably of No. 46; (fn. 10) and in June 1674 Ellis's widow, Dorothy, (fn. 7) let No. 53 to Lord Windsor. (fn. 11)

Like the east side of the square, the frontages of individual houses were of varied width; No. 48, which measured only eighteen feet, was the narrowest, and No. 49, with a frontage of thirty feet, was the widest.

By the certificate of partition of 1788 all of the ground on the west side of the square (plot 1 on fig. 94) was awarded to the Tulk family. After the death of Lydia Tulk, widow of John Augustus Tulk (I), in 1851, this plot and the rest of her estate in the area was divided amongst her children (see page 423).

In 1844 four of the houses on the west side of the square were acquired by the Crown for the formation of New Coventry Street (see fig. 81 on page 352).

Nos. 43–50 (consec.) Leicester Square


All of the ground on the west side of the square, extending back to Whitcomb Street, is now occupied by Fanum House, the headquarters of the Automobile Association. The houses which formerly occupied this site are described below.

No. 43

The original house on the corner of Spur (now Panton) Street was known as the Sun tavern from c. 1677 to 1692. (fn. 12) In January 1692/3 it was let by Elias Lock to Nathaniel Greene, goldsmith, who occupied it, under the sign of the Black Lion, (fn. 8) until 1696 or 1697. (fn. 6) The house became a tavern again, probably about 1709, and, being joined in 1714 with the house next door, continued under the sign of the Hoop until 1739. (fn. 13) In that year it was demolished and a new house was erected on the site in 1740 (see below). This was later occupied by Dr. Noah Thomas, 1754–60, who became physician to George III and was knighted in 1775. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who lived on this side of the square, painted his portrait. (fn. 14) Dr. Robert Bland, a physician with an extensive practice as an accoucheur, (fn. 14) lived here from 1809 until his death in 1816. (fn. 6) He had previously lived at No. 44.

No. 44

Before its union with No. 43 in 1714 the original house on this site was occupied by a Dr. Car(e)y, 1691–1700, (fn. 6) and by Joseph Chilcott, surgeon, (fn. 15) 1706–13. (fn. 6) In April 1739 William Godfrey of St. George's, Hanover Square, mason, contracted with the then lessee, John Forster of Gray's Inn, to demolish the Hoop tavern and build two new houses, No. 43 and No. 44. They were completed by 1740 and sub-let to Godfrey. (fn. 16)

Joseph Constantine Carpue, surgeon and anatomist, and an associate of Dr. George Pearson at No. 52, (fn. 14) lived here from 1799 to 1805, (fn. 6) and was succeeded by Dr. Robert Bland (fn. 14) from 1806 to 1808. (fn. 6)

No. 45

In 1680 (fn. 6) Sir John Reresby, second baronet, of Thrybergh in Yorkshire, traveller and author, became the tenant of the house on this site. (fn. 17) As a Member of Parliament he supported the unsuccessful Bill introduced in 1685 for a tax on new buildings in London to raise money for suppressing Monmouth's rebellion. (fn. 18) As a justice of the peace he was responsible for arresting Captain Christopher Vratz, one of the assassins hired by Count Königsmark to murder Thomas Thynne. Königsmark's object in killing Thynne was to win for himself the wealthy heiress whom Thynne had recently married, the Lady Elizabeth Ogle. Reresby found Vratz on the morning of 13 February 1681/2 'at the hous of a Swedish doctor in Leicester Fields'. He afterwards examined several suspects at his house in the square. (fn. 19) Reresby occupied No. 45 until at least 1684, (fn. 6) and possibly until his death in 1689. (fn. 14)

From 1716 to 1720 No. 45 was an apothecary's (fn. 20) and from 1753 to 1772 the rates were paid by an upholsterer. The house was being 'repaired' in the latter year. (fn. 6)

William Martin, an artist who frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy, lived here from 1786 to 1793. (fn. 6) He was succeeded by (Sir) Everard Home, the surgeon and brother-in-law of John Hunter, (fn. 14) from 1794 to 1798. (fn. 6) The house was occupied by St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin from 1865 until 1887, when it removed to No. 49 Leicester Square. (fn. 21)

No. 45 is shown during the period of the hospital's occupation in a contemporary photograph. (fn. 22) It may well have preserved the carcase and proportions of the earlier building illustrated by Sutton Nicholls and Bowles (Plate 46), but if so it had been considerably altered and the doorway moved from the southern to the northern bay of the front. The photograph shows a four-storeyed building with a stuccoed front, three windows wide, of the early or mid nineteenth century. In the ground storey the windows and doorway were flanked by fluted Ionic pilasters, above which was a frieze and cornice. The upper-storey windows had moulded architraves, those in the second storey with the addition of friezes and cornices and, for the central window, a triangular pediment on enriched consoles. There were continued sills in the second and third storeys, and above the fourth storey a moulded cornice. This was finished with a blockingcourse, broken in the centre by a panelled pedestal with flanking scroll-buttresses.

In 1902–3 No. 45 and No. 46 were rebuilt to the designs of E. Wimperis and East for Thurston and Company, billiard-table makers. (fn. 23) Many famous players competed at Thurston's (latterly the Leicester Square Hall) until the demolition of the building for the extension of Fanum House in 1956. (fn. 24)

No. 46

The earliest known occupant of this house was Sir John Lanier (see also No. 50), 1679–84 (?). The next occupier was William Windham or Winder, 1694–1714, (fn. 6) perhaps William Wyndham of Dinton, Wiltshire. (fn. 25) Henry Scott, first Earl of Deloraine and third son of the Duke of Monmouth, lived here in 1716–29. (fn. 6) He was gentleman of the bedchamber to George I. (fn. 14)

This house and No. 45 were rebuilt in 1902–3 (see above).

No. 47

This was one of the first houses on the west side of the square to be completed; Sir John Kirke occupied it in 1673–84 (?). (fn. 6) Colonel Henry Cornwall, master of the horse to the Princess of Orange and M.P. for Weobley 1702–7, (fn. 26) was rated for the house in 1691–6. He vacated the house temporarily from 1697 to 1701, when it was occupied by Christopher Leijoncrona, the Swedish envoy, who moved here from No. 49. Colonel Cornwall returned in 1702 until his death in 1717, (fn. 6) when he was succeeded by his son, Colonel (later LieutenantGeneral) Henry Cornwall, (fn. 27) who remained until 1755. (fn. 6)

Sir Joshua Reynolds lived at No. 47 during the years of his greatest fame, from 1760 until his death here on 23 February 1792. He had previously lived in Great Newport Street (see page 346), but his increasing prosperity required larger premises. On 3 July 1760 he recorded 'house bought' in his pocket-book (fn. 28) and on 11 September 'Paid the remaining £1000 for the House in Leicester Fields'. (fn. 29) The deed of assignment was dated 2 September 1760; it was registered in the Middlesex Land Register on 12 September. (fn. 30) Reynolds paid £1,650 for the lease, which had forty-seven years to run. (fn. 31)

The house had a frontage of twenty-eight feet to the square and extended westward 104 feet to Whitcomb Street, where there was a coach-house and stables. (fn. 30) Reynolds subsequently acquired the adjoining premises to the north in Whitcomb Street. (fn. 32) Joseph Farington records that Reynolds, finding the house 'though large and respectable, still insufficient for his professional purposes, … was obliged to be at the further expense of 1500 l. for a detached gallery, painting rooms, and such other conveniences as his extensive concerns required'. (fn. 31) James Northcote, who was for some years one of Reynolds's assistants, (fn. 1) states that Reynolds 'added a splendid gallery for the exhibition of his works, and a commodious and elegant room for his sitters'. This 'painting room was of an octagonal form, about twenty feet long, and about sixteen in breadth. The window which gave the light to this room was square, and not much larger than one half the size of a common window in a private house, whilst the lower part of this window was nine feet four inches from the floor. The chair for his sitters was raised eighteen inches from the floor'. (fn. 33) James Paine the elder 'designed and executed' a handsome chimneypiece for Reynolds (Plate 129d), and it may be that he also superintended the alterations described above. (fn. 34)

When these additions had been completed the rateable value of the premises was raised from £80 to £100, (fn. 6) and 'Mr. Reynolds gave a ball and refreshments to a numerous and elegant company on opening his gallery to the public'. (fn. 33)

To this house came many hundreds of the sitters whose portraits Reynolds painted during the next thirty years. Here 'at his own fireside' Reynolds first suggested to Dr. Johnson the establishment of The Club (fn. 35) (which later met at the Turk's Head, Gerrard Street, see page 388), and here he entertained his friends—Burke, Goldsmith, Garrick, Fanny Burney and Boswell, as well, of course, as Johnson himself. (fn. 36)

Reynolds died on 23 February 1792. By his will he bequeathed the bulk of his estate, including the lease of his house, to his niece, Mary Palmer, (fn. 37) then aged forty-one, who had kept house for him for many years and who, very shortly afterwards, on 25 July 1792, married Murrough O'Brien, Earl of Inchiquin. (fn. 38) The Earl was some sixty-six years of age and 'celebrated rather as a bon vivant than a fashionable, and for many years had the reputation of being a six-bottled man'. (fn. 39) For his Countess, however (after fifteen years of marriage), there was 'not such another man in the world: He is the best man in it. In trifles He is irritable in the extreme; but in everything of moment calm and firm; bearing what may happen with fortitude.' (fn. 40)

Lord Inchiquin, 'with the air of a nobleman', is said to have 'added to the painter's paintingroom'. (fn. 41) In 1800 he was created Marquess of Thomond. (fn. 38) He and his wife lived at No. 47 until 1806, when, the lease having only a few more months to run, they removed to Great George Street. The house in Leicester Square was left 'ready furnished to be let' for £500 for the remaining fifteen months of the lease, (fn. 42) and the ratebooks for 1807 show that Sir William Scott (later Lord Stowell), a distinguished lawyer who had been a friend of Dr. Johnson and an executor of his will, (fn. 14) occupied the house during this year only.

The Thomonds' removal from Leicester Square was evidently occasioned by the terms demanded by the ground landlord, John Augustus Tulk (I), for the renewal of the lease, which expired at Michaelmas 1807. (fn. 43) In August 1807 Lady Thomond, by then safely installed in No. 31 Great George Street, told Joseph Farington 'that Fulk [sic], the owner of their late House (Sir Joshua's) in Leicester Square, asks £300 a year rent for it, also that the property tax upon that shall be paid by the tenant; also that £500 shall be laid out in repairing the House at present; and that it shall be painted throughout once in every 2 years or 2 years and a half'. (fn. 40) The Marquess of Thomond died shortly afterwards, on 10 February 1808, but his widow survived him until 1820. (fn. 38)

The house was now put to commercial use, for the next occupants, from 1808 to 1823, were Peter Welcker and Company (later Welcker and Wehnert), tailors and drapers. (fn. 44) From 1825 to 1827 the occupant was John Rebecca (fn. 6) (architect and son of Biagio Rebecca) (fn. 45) who evidently made some alterations to the premises. (fn. 46) In 1828 he was succeeded by the Western Literary and Scientific Institution.

In the mid-1820's adult education was a popular subject in radical circles. Dr. George Birkbeck had founded the London Mechanics' Institution (now Birkbeck College) in 1824. Two 'other educational societies, of a somewhat higher grade' had emanated in 1825 from this foundation, the City of London Literary and Scientific Institution and the Western Literary and Scientific Institution. (fn. 47) The latter was established on 11 July 1825 under the auspices of Sir Francis Burdett, John Cam Hobhouse, Francis Place, Henry Drummond (who in the same year founded the chair of political economy at Oxford), the Hon. Douglas Kinnaird (a friend of Byron, Hobhouse and Burdett) and Sir Anthony Carlisle (a prominent surgeon), as well as of Birkbeck himself. (fn. 48) The poet Thomas Campbell is said to have been the president. (fn. 47)

The object of the institution was 'the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge among Persons engaged in Commercial and Professional Pursuits'. This was to be achieved by the establishment of a library, classes for languages and science, and 'Lectures on the most interesting and important subjects in Literature and Science'. Members' annual subscription was two guineas. (fn. 49)

The institution occupied No. 47 from 1828 until 1852. (fn. 44) Considerable alterations were made to the interior arrangement of the premises by J. B. Papworth, but the elevation of the lecture theatre, which fronted Whitcomb Street, appears to have been designed by George Godwin, junior, (fn. 50) who in 1834 was a member of the committee of management. (fn. 49)

After 1852 the premises were again used for commercial purposes. From 1856 to 1859 Charles Goodyear, 'inventor of vulcanization of india rubber', and Company, merchants, were the occupants. From 1859 until 1937 the premises were occupied by Puttick and Simpson, the auctioneers, who are said to have built a large auction-room at the back, probably replacing the lecture theatre. (fn. 51) In 1937 the house and back buildings were demolished for the extension of Fanum House. (fn. 2)

Architectural Description

The house is first illustrated in Sutton Nicholls's view of the square in c. 1727 (Plate 46a). This shows what must have been the original late seventeenth-century building, containing a basement, three storeys and a garret, and having a front three windows wide. There were bandcourses above the ground and second storeys, and the front was finished with a modillioned eavescornice. By the date of Bowles's view of 1753 (Plate 46b), however, the front had evidently been refaced and a fourth storey had replaced the roof-garret. The front at this time appears to have been entirely plain, with simply a parapet at the top, the only decoration being a doorcase consisting of two pilasters supporting an entablature. Apart from this, there is no other reliable illustration of the exterior of the building until the photograph taken shortly before its demolition in 1937. (fn. 52) This merely confirms the evidence of Bowles's view as to its general proportions and shows that it had been remodelled in stucco during the early or mid nineteenth century (Plate 50b).

No plan was made of the house at the time of its demolition and information about the interior layout comes entirely from ground- and first-floor plans of 1841 and 1826 respectively, preserved among the Papworth drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects. From these it is easy to identify the plan of the original house, consisting of a single front and back room with a projecting closet-wing at the rear and the staircase lying beside the back room on the south. The nineteenth-century alterations seem to have been confined largely to the rear of the site, and photographs in the Greater London Council's collection show that a substantial amount of early eighteenthcentury work remained until 1937. The entrance hall (Plate 126c) was lined with raised-and-fielded, ovolo-moulded panelling in two heights, finished with a moulded dado-rail and, at the top, a full entablature with a modillioned cornice. Flanking the entrance to the stair compartment was a pair of Corinthian pilasters. The first two flights of the staircase had been rebuilt in stone, with an iron 'crinoline' balustrade, but above that the wooden dog-legged flights of the early eighteenth century remained. Up to at least the halfspace landing above the first floor these had cut strings decorated with carved step-ends, each step carrying three turned balusters with square waist-pieces (Plate 126d). Upon them rested the moulded handrail, which was ramped up at the landings over fluted column-newels. The compartment had a panelled dado to match that in the hall, with upper panels on the landings, and attached to the dado were fluted pilasters echoing the newels of the staircase. Presumably this work was done when the exterior was altered, before 1753.

There seems to have been no trace of work by James Paine, and the lower flights of the staircase were probably rebuilt in the early nineteenth century, despite a tradition that they were designed to accommodate the hooped skirts of Sir Joshua Reynolds's female sitters. Photographs of the ground- and first-floor front rooms in 1937 show undistinguished early or mid nineteenthcentury finishings. The chimneypieces contained re-used fragments of later eighteenth-century work, but these could easily have been imported. According to a note made in 1937 (fn. 53) some old wallpaper, possibly of eighteenth-century date, was found on the south wall of the first-floor front room beneath layers of later papers, canvas and battens. It was of 'a pine-apple pattern … the portions covered by battens appeared to have retained their original colours:—a light bluish grey background covered with almost white spots between the design, which was medium blue'.

One other feature of note in this part of the building was a semi-circular wooden structure in the form of an exedra, placed on the first-floor landing and framing the entrance to the front room (Plate 126d). It consisted of four slender pilasters supporting an entablature with a frieze of rosettes. The spaces between the columns contained later work in 1937, but a drawing of 1898 (fn. 54) shows an early eighteenth-century panelled door recessed within the centre bay and the flanking bays occupied by panels with voluted decoration in the austere Grecian manner. Above the cornice was a blocking-course, finished at either end with a piece of scrolled ornament and broken in the centre by a wide pedestal-block with a moulded cap. It is tempting to attribute this to Papworth, but the drawings in the Royal Institute of British Architects provide no supporting evidence, and it is worth noting that it had stylistic affinities with the auction-room supposedly erected by Puttick and Simpson in or after 1859.

The plans show that the whole of the rear part of the site, together with the house immediately north of it in Whitcomb Street, was occupied by the theatre of the Western Literary and Scientific Institution. The closet-wing of the original house had been extended westwards to link up with it, and opposite this a further link had been provided by erecting at first-floor level a passage carried on columns. Papworth was evidently in charge of the alterations from the start, for the first-floor plan, entitled 'For the Literary and Scientific Institution', bears his initials and is dated 1826. But this scheme was clearly not carried out, for it does not correspond with a drawing of 1832 (fn. 55) showing the theatre as built. There are no finished drawings for the executed scheme, but several rather scrappy sketches, undated and unsigned, are certainly intended for it and are in Papworth's hand. Although a note on one of the sketches refers to alterations made by John Rebecca, it is likely that these were made during his own previous occupancy of the building and not as an associate of Papworth. The lecture theatre was on the first floor, having plain walls finished with a moulded cornice, from which sprang the deep cove of the ceiling, pierced by wide semi-circular windows (Plate 44b). This ceiling did not cover the whole area of the room and was carried on the east and north sides by a series of iron columns. Rows of seats sloped down in tiers towards the platform, which lay at the north end in what had originally been a separate house.

For some unexplained reason Papworth did not design the Whitcomb Street front to this theatre, for the design for it among the Papworth drawings, dated 1838–9, is inscribed 'G. Godwin Junr. Arct'. This shows a front almost identical with that in the drawing illustrated on Plate 44a. The ground storey is designed as a screen of Doric pilasters supporting an entablature, the bays being occupied by a pair of shop fronts with the entrance to the theatre between them. This had a heavily rusticated head with an emphasized keyblock, the entablature breaking at either side of it to support a blind semi-circular arch with a moulded archivolt. The lofty upper storey had a plain rusticated face broken only by a plaque advertising the name of the institution. Flanking it were raised pilaster-like strips, above which was an entablature with a richly bracketed cornice. This carried a patterned balustrade with a plain middle section forming a pedestal for the royal coat of arms. Godwin's drawing adds only a few more details; rosettes below the capitals of the columns in the ground storey and a slightly different version of the coat of arms flanked by two busts.

It is not known to what extent the building was altered by Puttick and Simpson when they took it over in 1859. However, their sale catalogue of 30 April 1861 (fn. 56) published an engraving of a vast room, described as the auction-room, which they said had been 'Built on the site of the famous octagon painting room of Sir Joshua Reynolds'. The same room is shown in J. P. Emslie's drawing of 1898. It was extremely lofty, having round the top of the walls a frieze of tall panels bearing Rococo decoration. At one end of the room was a great recess flanked by square columns of an indeterminate order, these carrying an entablature with a frieze of rosettes and a dentilled cornice. The ceiling was flat and divided by deep beams into compartments, some of which seem to have been glazed by 1898.

Sir Joshua Reynolds's residence here was formerly commemorated by a plaque erected by the Society of Arts in the 1870's. This plaque was removed when the house was demolished in 1937, and another one was erected on the new building by the London County Council in 1947. Ten years later this plaque was temporarily removed during the further extension of Fanum House, and was replaced in 1960. (fn. 57)

No. 48

Like No. 47, this was one of the first houses on the west side of the square to be finished. It was probably let to Edward Symes, (fn. 58) who occupied it in 1673–6. Later inhabitants included: (fn. 6) Sir Thomas Mackworth of Normanton, fourth baronet, M.P. for Rutland 1721–7, (fn. 59) 1724; William Nevill, Lord Abergavenny, sixteenth Baron, (fn. 38) 1726; Lady Abergavenny, 1728–31; Jeremiah Davison, the portrait painter, who died here, (fn. 60) 1741–5; Edward Penny, portrait and historical painter, (fn. 14) 1746 ?, 1750–6; and James Christie, 1776–1814. This was probably the James Christie who in 1821 described himself as a tailor, late of Leicester Square but then of Newman Street, and who died in 1825 aged eighty-six. (fn. 61) Some confusion has apparently arisen between him and James Christie, the auctioneer. But, as the latter occupied a house in Pall Mall from 1768 until 1803, and died in that year, (fn. 62) it seems certain that the James Christie who lived in Leicester Square was not the auctioneer. (fn. 3)

No. 49

This house appears to have been completed in 1675. It was rented from Michaelmas 1693 to 1696 by Christopher Leijoncrona, the Swedish envoy, who also occupied Nos. 47 and 50. (fn. 6) In 1696 the house was taken over by the envoy's compatriot, Michael Dahl, the fashionable portrait painter, (fn. 14) who lived here until 1726. (fn. 6)

William Cumberland Cruikshank, anatomist, who attended Dr. Johnson in his last illness and was described by him as 'a sweet-blooded man', (fn. 14) lived here from 1789 until his death in 1800. (fn. 6) He was succeeded by his son-in-law and pupil, Honoratus Leigh Thomas, surgeon, (fn. 14) who lived here until 1805, when he removed to No. 12 Leicester Place, where he remained until 1844. (fn. 6) In 1887 St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin moved here from No. 45. In 1904–5 the old house was demolished and rebuilt for the hospital to the designs of Treadwell and Martin. In December 1935 the hospital removed to its present premises at No. 5 Lisle Street (see page 473) and the building in Leicester Square was demolished shortly afterwards for the extension of Fanum House. (fn. 21)

No. 50

Lieutenant-General Sir John Lanier, a supporter of William III, who had previously lived at No. 46, moved here some time before 1691. (fn. 6) He died in 1692 from wounds received in battle in Flanders, (fn. 14) leaving a personal estate, including the house in Leicester Square, valued at £20,000. (fn. 63) Leijoncrona, the Swedish envoy, who also occupied Nos. 47 and 49, occupied the house for the summer of 1693 and again from 1702 until his death in 1710. (fn. 64) During the intervening years (fn. 6) Colonel Villiers lived here, 1694–7 (?), followed by Major-General Henry Lumley, M.P., brother of the first Earl of Scarbrough, (fn. 14) (?) 1700–1. From 1711 to 1719 (fn. 6) Francis Seymour Conway, first Baron Conway of Ragley, Warwickshire, was the tenant. (fn. 38)

For several years thereafter No. 50 was occupied by a branch of the Pelham family. Henry Pelham, of Stanmer, M.P., clerk of the pells, and uncle of two prime ministers (the Duke of Newcastle and his brother Henry Pelham) appears to have taken No. 50 in 1720; he died in 1721 and was succeeded by his son, Thomas Pelham (I), M.P., who died in 1737. The latter's sister, Elizabeth, married Thomas Pelham (II), son of Sir Nicholas Pelham, her great-uncle. Thomas Pelham (II) occupied the house from 1739 to 1743 and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Edward Cressett, Dean of Hereford and Bishop of Llandaff, in 1744. The house was let in 1745–6, and an unidentified member of the family (—Pelham, esquire) was rated for it in 1747–8. From 1749 to 1751 Richard Temple's name is given in the ratebooks. He was presumably the Hon. Richard Temple who married Harriet, daughter of Thomas Pelham (I), although he died in 1749. (fn. 65)

Later occupants included (fn. 6) Lieutenant-General Daniel Webb, colonel, in turn, of three different foot regiments, (fn. 66) 1761–74; John Greenwood, auctioneer, 1785–96; Captain (later Admiral) John Schenck, 1797–1802, and John Masey Wright, who exhibited at the Royal Academy and who worked for Henry Aston Barker in the preparation of panoramas, 1803–5. (fn. 14)

The house was one of those subsequently acquired by the Crown in connexion with the formation of New Coventry Street. After the street had been formed this site was left with a return front extending the whole distance between Whitcomb Street and Leicester Square; the house was therefore not completely demolished, but was remodelled to the designs of Charles Mayhew. (fn. 67)

Nos. 43–50 (consec.) Leicester Square: Fanum House

The Automobile Association was founded in 1905, its first offices being in Fleet Street. In 1909 it removed to Nos. 66 and 68 Whitcomb Street, within the island site which it still occupies. Rebuilding of the northern end of the block began in 1923 to the designs of Andrew Mather. Two more houses, including the St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, were demolished in 1936 for the first southward extension, and No. 47, formerly Sir Joshua Reynolds's house, was demolished in 1937. The final extension southward to Panton Street took place in 1956–9, the architect being Leonard Allen with Gordon Jeeves as consulting architect. (fn. 68)

The exterior of Fanum House demonstrates, all too effectively, the mistake of applying the conventional Palladian ordonnance to an office building containing, above its lofty ground storey, eight storeys of uniformly moderate height. The masonry of the ground storey is plain, that of the next floor is coursed with horizontal jointing, and above it rises a Corinthian order of columns and pilasters embracing three storeys. The main entablature is surmounted by two attics, and the steeply sloping roof of pantiles contains two tiers of large dormers. Shallow breaks divide the front into a three-bay centre, flanked by wings of four bays and slightly recessed end features of two bays. The splayed corners of the front are carried up to form clock turrets, finished with concave roofs of copper (Plate 52a).

No. 51 Leicester Square


It is not possible to ascertain the first occupant of this house but it was inhabited by Sir William Farmer or Fermor in 1681; he moved to No. 53 in the same year. (fn. 6) The only other occupant of interest was Hans Huyssing, the Swedish portrait painter and imitator of Dahl, in whose company he came to England. (fn. 14) He lived at No. 51 from 1728 to 1750. (fn. 6) The house was demolished in the 1840's for the formation of New Coventry Street.

No. 52 Leicester Square


From 1679 to c. 1684 Sir Paul Rycaut, the traveller, diplomat, and historian of Turkey, lived here. Much of his life was spent out of England for he was consul of the Levant Company at Smyrna in 1667–79, secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the second Earl of Clarendon) in 1685–8 and resident in Hamburg in 1689–1700. He was knighted in 1685. (fn. 69)

Later occupants included (fn. 6) Justice Robert Perryman or Perrismore, (fn. 70) 1704–11; Jacques Christophe Le Blon (Le Blond), painter, engraver and printer, (fn. 14) 1734–5; Sir William Wolseley, of Wolseley, Staffordshire, fifth baronet, (fn. 59) 1757– 1768; Vice-Admiral John Campbell, 1774–82, and Dr. George Pearson, physician, (fn. 14) 1785–1805. The house was demolished in the 1840's for the formation of New Coventry Street.

No. 53 Leicester Square


The original house on this site was let on 15 June 1674 by Dorothy Ellis to Thomas, seventh Lord Windsor, for a payment of £60 and a yearly rent of £106. The term was for twenty-one years. (fn. 11) Windsor was appointed master of the horse to James, Duke of York, in 1676 and was created Earl of Plymouth in 1684. (fn. 14) He occupied the house in the square until 1676 when he assigned the lease, on 30 March, to William Soame of Thurlow, Suffolk (later Sir William Soame, first baronet) (fn. 59) for £60. (fn. 11)

The latter granted a lease of the house in May 1681 to the connoisseur Sir William Fermor or Farmer at a rent of £80 per annum. (fn. 11) Sir William, the second baronet, who was later created Baron Leominster, (fn. 14) had previously occupied No. 51 in the square. He later employed Nicholas Hawksmoor to build Easton Neston in Northamptonshire. (fn. 45) Sir William occupied No. 53 until c. 1687. (fn. 6)

In March 1720/1 the lease of No. 53 was assigned to George Walter. The assignment was witnessed by a lawyer, Edmund Byron (see page 411), described as Walter's clerk, which suggests that Walter himself was a lawyer. (fn. 71) In 1718 he had become a trustee of the Leicester estate in place of, and at the nomination of, Jane Egerton, who was the daughter of the last surviving trustee appointed by the will of Robert, fourth Earl of Leicester. (fn. 72) No. 53 Leicester Square was rebuilt by Walter, probably in 1723, and a new house was built at the rear facing Whitcomb Street. (fn. 73) He continued to pay rates for, and presumably to occupy, the house in the square until 1734, but his name also occurs in the ratebooks, for overlapping periods, at Nos. 1, 4 and 5 Leicester Street and No. 43 Lisle Street. (fn. 6) Some of these houses were let to him, whether for private profit or in his capacity as trustee of the estate is not certain, and he also had leases of No. 10–11 Leicester Street, at least one other house in Lisle Street and one in Sidney Street. (fn. 74) In 1727 Walter was knighted for his services at George II's coronation. (fn. 75) In his will, dated 1741, he described himself as of Worcester Park, Surrey, and nominated Edmund Byron to be a trustee of his estate. He died in 1742. (fn. 76)

Later inhabitants included (fn. 6) Charles Calvert, fifth Baron Baltimore, (fn. 4) M.P., gentleman of the bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales, (fn. 38) 1745; Denzil Onslow, presumably the M.P. of Drungwick, Sussex, (fn. 77) 1746–7; Peter Dutens, the jeweller (from No. 19), 1748–61, his widow, 1761–91, and his daughter (?), Miss Dutens, 1792–1803. Dutens was buried in St. Anne's Church, where a monument was raised to his memory; he left bequests for the sick and poor French to the trustees of the French Hospital near St. Luke's and the French Church in Hog Lane. (fn. 78)

The house was demolished in the 1840's for the formation of New Coventry Street.

No. 54 Leicester Square


The original house at the west corner of Leicester Street and Leicester Square was built on the site of the garden of Leicester House in 1682–3 (see page 427). It appears to have been occupied by victuallers from about 1684 to 1774, and was later turned into a shop. (fn. 79) Its site is now covered by the Swiss Centre (see page 486).


  • 1. Reynolds employed several assistants during his occupation of No. 47; artists who gave his address at exhibitions of their work included Hugh Barron (1766); John Berridge (1766–8); William Doughty (1776–8); Charles Gill (1772, 1774); James Northcote (1773–6); William Parry (1766–8); John Powell (1778); and William Score (1781, 1783–4).
  • 2. The stone steps and iron balusters of the staircase were removed by Father J. S. M. Ward to the Abbey Art Centre and Museum at Park Road, New Barnet, Hertfordshire, where some of the stones were used for building purposes, and others still remain unused.
  • 3. The confusion, however, has led to a mistaken attribution in the biography of Samuel Hunter Christie, the mathematician. The Dictionary of National Biography states that he was the son of the auctioneer and was born in Pall Mall in 1784. His obituary notice in 1865, however, states that he was born in London in 1784 and as a child was intimate with Sir Joshua Reynolds who lived in the house adjoining that of his father. As Reynolds was then living at No. 47 Leicester Square it follows that Samuel was born at No. 48 Leicester Square and that his father was James Christie, the tailor. It is possible that the latter was connected with the family from Stirling which traded in Baltimore. A member of this family, named James Christie, who was born in 1738 (the same year as James Christie, the tailor) left America and settled in London at some time between 1775 and 1784. This date would fit the appearance of James Christie's name in the ratebooks for No. 48 Leicester Square in 1776. Moreover, the cousin of James Christie the merchant, a Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Christie, addressed letters from a house in Leicester Square in 1775–6. It should be noted, however, that the date given for James Christie the merchant's death is 1803, not 1825, although the coincidence of the former date with the known date of the auctioneer's death is a little suspicious, especially as no will was proved or letters of administration granted in 1803 except for the auctioneer.
  • 4. Most of his son Frederick's estates were sold to John Trotter, upholsterer of Soho.
  • 5. De L'Isle deeds, bundle 556, deed of 20 June 1670.
  • 6. R.B.
  • 7. P.C.C., 121 Duke.
  • 8. Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MSS., D1220, deed used for fly-leaf.
  • 9. M.L.R. 1716/2/116; G.L.R.O., E/Pym/591.
  • 10. P.R.O., C7/203/16; R.B.
  • 11. P.R.O., C8/301/63.
  • 12. Cal. S.P. Dom. March 1677–Feb. 1678, p. 457; Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MSS., D1220, deed used for fly-leaf.
  • 13. R.B.; M.L.R. 1739/2/465.
  • 14. D.N.B.
  • 15. Chartered Insurance Institute, Sun Fire Policy Book, 1712.
  • 16. M.L.R. 1739/2/465; 1739/3/191; 1740/3/ 492–3.
  • 17. The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, ed. A. Browning, 1936, p. 202.
  • 18. Ibid., pp. 375–8.
  • 19. Ibid., pp. 250–1.
  • 20. M.L.R. 1716/2/116.
  • 21. Annual Reports of St. Johns Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, passim.
  • 22. Brian Russell, St. Johns Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, 1863–1963, 1963, plate between pp. 16–17 (wrongly captioned as No. 49 Leicester Square.)
  • 23. L.C.C. Minutes, 10 June 1902, p. 845; Royal Academy Catalogue, 1903, no. 1471.
  • 24. G.L.C., Dept. of Architecture and Civic Design, Historic Buildings Section files.
  • 25. Burke's Landed Gentry.
  • 26. J. L. Chester, The Marriage, Baptismal, and Burial Registers of the Abbey … of … Westminster, 1876; C. Dalton, English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661–1714, vol. I, 1894.
  • 27. Chester, op. cit.; Dalton, op. cit.; The Army List, 1740.
  • 28. William Cotton, Sir Joshua Reynolds and His Works, 1856, p. 87.
  • 29. Derek Hudson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1958, plate , b.
  • 30. M.L.R. 1760/3/505.
  • 31. Joseph Farington, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1819, pp. 46–7.
  • 32. P.R.O., C12/979/14, schedule of leases, block 1, no. 13.
  • 33. James Northcote, The Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1819, vol. I, pp. 102–3.
  • 34. James Paine, Plans, Elevations, and Sections, of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Houses, vol. II, 1783, p. 32 and plate .
  • 35. Sir James Prior, Life of Edmund Malone, 1860, p. 434.
  • 36. Hudson, op. cit., pp. 73, 203.
  • 37. P.C.C., 106 Fountain.
  • 38. G.E.C.
  • 39. The Gentleman's Magazine, 1808, part I, p. 180.
  • 40. The Farington Diary, ed. James Greig, 1922–8, vol. IV, p. 189.
  • 41. W.P.L., Leicester Square Scrapbook, vol. I, p. 43.
  • 42. R.B.; Boyle's Court Guide; The Farington Diary, op. cit., vol. III, p. 192.
  • 43. P.R.O., C12/979/14, schedule of leases, block I, no. 11.
  • 44. R.B.; P.O.D.
  • 45. Colvin.
  • 46. R.I.B.A. Library, Papworth drawings.
  • 47. John George Godard, George Birkbeck, 1884, pp. 55, 63, 86–7.
  • 48. Ibid., loc. cit.; Wyatt Papworth, John B. Papworth, Architect to the King of Wurtemburg, 1879, p. 73; D.N.B.
  • 49. Laws of the Western Literary and Scientific Institution, 1834 (B.M. pressmark T 1919(8)).
  • 50. Papworth, loc. cit.; Tom Taylor, Leicester Square, 1874, p. 380n.; R.I.B.A. Library, Papworth drawings.
  • 51. W.P.L., City Librarian's typescript report on No. 47 Leicester Square, 1937; P.O.D.
  • 52. The Architect and Building News, 7 May 1937, supplement.
  • 53. N.M.R., report on No. 47 Leicester Square by Edward Yates.
  • 54. W.P.L., A.138.
  • 55. Ibid., box 42, no. 20B.
  • 56. Puttick and Simpson's Auction Sale Catalogues (B.M. pressmark Hirsch 565).
  • 57. The Builder, 15 Jan. 1870, p. 51; G.L.C., Members' Library file 354.
  • 58. M.L.R. 1721/3/190.
  • 59. G.E.C. (Baronetage).
  • 60. D.N.B.; Walpole Society, vol. 22, 1934 (George Vertue Note Book III), p. 129.
  • 61. Family papers in the possession of Mr. R. W. H. Christie.
  • 62. Survey of London, vol. XXIX, 1960, p. 368; P.C.C., Admon. 1803.
  • 63. P.R.O., C5/109/24.
  • 64. R.B.; Cal. Treasury Books 1710, part II, p. 343.
  • 65. R.B.; Burke's Peerage and Landed Gentry; The History of Parliament. The House of Commons 1754–1790, ed. Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, 1964; Monumental Inscriptions … at St. Anne's Church, Soho, ed. W. E. Hughes, 1905, p. 51.
  • 66. The Army Lists.
  • 67. P.R.O., Works 6/94, pp. 115–16.
  • 68. G.L.C., Members' Library file 354; E.S. 3157; T.P. 5134.
  • 69. R.B.; B.M., Add. MS. 22910, f. 199; D.N.B.
  • 70. M.L.R. 1718/4/176; 1720/6/365.
  • 71. Ibid., 1720/6/365.
  • 72. De L'Isle deeds, bundle 552, deed of 25 July 1718.
  • 73. R.B.; G.L.R.O.(M), Acc. 401/185.
  • 74. M.L.R. 1735/4/214; G.L.R.O., Q/EV/48.
  • 75. W. A. Shaw, The Knights of England, 1906.
  • 76. P.C.C., 286 Trenley.
  • 77. The History of Parliament. The House of Commons 1754–1790, ed. Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, 1964, sub Onslow, Middleton; Burke's Landed Gentry.
  • 78. Monumental Inscriptions … at St. Anne's Church, Soho, ed. W. E. Hughes, 1905, pp. 14–15.
  • 79. R.B.; M.L.R. 1720/6/365; G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W)2; W.P.L., The Westminster Poll, 1749; P.O.D.
  • 80. Hudson, op. cit. (25 above), p. 74.
  • 81. Information supplied from The Abbey Art Centre and Museum, 89 Park Road, New Barnet, Hertfordshire.
  • 82. The Gentleman's Magazine, 1865, part I, pp. 517–18; The Times, 6 Feb. 1865.
  • 83. The Rev. Charles Rogers, Genealogical Memoirs of the Scottish House of Christie, 1828, pp. 29–32.
  • 84. H.M.C., Dartmouth MSS., vol. II, 1895, pp. 342, 375, 411.