Soho Square Area: Portland Estate, Nos. 4-6 Soho Square

Pages 57-59

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

Nos. 4–6 Soho Square

This building was erected in 1801–4 and stands upon the site of three separate houses whose previous histories are described individually below.

No. 4

On 5 January 1680/1 Richard Frith and William Pym leased this site and the probably uncompleted house on it to Cadogan Thomas of Lambeth, timber merchant. (fn. 1) Nothing has been found about the completion of the house, whose first recorded occupant was Sir Thomas Traville; he lived here from at least 1691 to 1697 or later. Captain Carew was here from 1721 to 1725. (fn. 2)

In May 1724 Katherine Kerr of St. James's, widow, was granted a reversionary lease of this house for thirty-five years from Michaelmas 1734 from the first Duke of Portland. At the same time she obtained a similar lease of the adjoining No. 5, with the intention of rebuilding both houses, then in a dilapidated condition. (fn. 3) By May 1726 both houses were said to have fallen down, and had been rebuilt by Thomas Lucas of St. Andrew's, Holborn, bricklayer, to whom the Portland leases were assigned. (fn. 4) The redevelopment of these two sites appears to have involved Lucas in financial difficulties for he was bankrupt in 1727. (fn. 5) The new No. 4 was complete and first occupied in 1727. (fn. 2)

No. 5

On 3 January 1680/1 Richard Frith and William Pym leased this site and the probably uncompleted house on it to Cadogan Thomas of Lambeth, timber merchant. (fn. 6) Nothing has been found about the completion of the house, whose first recorded occupant was Colonel Hastings; he lived here in 1691 (or possibly earlier) and 1692. Other inhabitants include Captain Kerr, 1695–1710, and Orlando Bridgeman, later fourth baronet, M.P., 1719–25. (fn. 2)

With No. 4, this house, then in dilapidated condition, was leased in 1724 to Katherine Kerr of St. James's, widow. (fn. 3) Both houses were rebuilt by Thomas Lucas of St. Andrew's, Holborn, bricklayer, by 1726. (fn. 4) The new house remained empty until June 1728, when the lease was assigned to George Heathcote of Earl Stoke, Wiltshire, esquire, who lived here until 1733. (fn. 7) From 1737 to 1743 the house was occupied by George Dashwood (fn. 2) whose name appears in a report of a Select Committee of the House of Commons inquiry into the affairs of the Select Vestry of St. Anne. The parish rate collector stated that he 'had informed the Vestry, that Mr. Dashwood, in Soho-Square, was overrated, and desired that he might be abated to his just Proportion; but that he was answered, That Mr. Dashwood was a Gentleman, and could afford to pay; and besides, that he served no [parish] Offices'. (fn. 8) Soon after Dashwood's departure in 1743 the rateable value of the house was reduced from £80 to £64 per annum. (fn. 2)

Later inhabitants include William Northey, Wiltshire landowner and M.P., who had previously lived at No. 3, 1748–50; John Thomas, successively Bishop of Peterborough, Salisbury and Winchester, 1753–62, and John Trotter, army contractor, 1785–90. (fn. 2)

No. 6

The early history of No. 6 has been described above with that of No. 3. Sir John Thompson, subsequently first Baron Haversham, Whig politician, was living here in 1691, and later occupied No. 23. Other inhabitants included Colonel Le Neve, 1691–1716; Colonel Lucas, 1726–8; James Dawkins, ? M.P., traveller, active Jacobite and eccentric, 1745, and Winchcombe Hartley, Berkshire landowner and M.P., 1777–84. (fn. 2)

Later History of Nos. 4–6

In 1800 John Trotter, who had occupied No. 5 Soho Square from 1785 to 1790 and No. 7 from 1793, took possession of Nos. 4, 5 and 6 (fn. 2) for the erection of a warehouse. Trotter was the head of a firm of army contractors and was, after the outbreak of war with revolutionary France, in control of all government stores, a responsibility officially recognized in 1807 by his appointment as 'Storekeeper-general'. (fn. 9)

The extensive premises which he erected in Soho Square between 1801 and 1804 covered the sites of the three demolished houses (Nos. 4, 5 and 6) and extended westward to Dean Street (Plate 135a, fig. 3). No. 7 Soho Square was retained unaltered as Trotter's private residence. (fn. 10)

On the conclusion of his storekeeping duties at the end of the Napoleonic wars, from which Trotter seems to have emerged with a considerable private fortune and a somewhat damaged reputation, he lavished his energy on a number of other schemes, including an abortive one for a universal language. (fn. 9) The most successful of his projects was the foundation of the Soho Bazaar. For this purpose Trotter adapted his now useless warehouse in Soho Square for the encouragement of 'Female and Domestic Industry', he being anxious to stop the country from pouring 'its happy and innocent virgins into the common sink of London'. (fn. 11) The bazaar, 'a well known oriental term for a kind of fixed fair or market', (fn. 12) was to be, so Trotter claimed, an institution 'founded on . . . benevolent and patriotic principles' and not a gratuitous charity. Through its offices 'the industrious . . . may hope to thrive; reduced tradesmen may recover and retain their connexions; beginners may form friends, connexions, and habits, before they encounter more extensive speculations; and artists, artizans, and whole families, employed at home, although infirm or in the country, may securely vend their labour to advantage by proxy'. (fn. 11)

Having failed to persuade the Government to undertake this project, he opened the bazaar himself on 1 February 1816. (fn. 13) The interior of the disused warehouse was laid out with stalls and counters arranged on two floors of the building in the manner of a closed market. The vendors hired their selling spaces by the day and there were stringent rules for the conduct of business, but everything was conducted on the 'fairest and most liberal plan'. The goods sold consisted chiefly of millinery, gloves, lace, jewellery and potted plants. (fn. 11)

The interior layout of the bazaar was described in considerable detail by the Reverend Joseph Nightingale in his pamphlet The Bazaar, published in May 1816 to advertise this novel institution. The ground floor was occupied by one large room hung with red cloth and large mirrors and solidly furnished with mahogany counters; two of the back rooms, called the grotto and the parterre, were both decorated with climbing plants; there was a kitchen providing meals for the vendors, with 'a stove of a peculiar construction sending forth two distinct columns of heat' to warm the rooms. Another feature of the establishment, and that an unexpectedly modern one for an early nineteenth-century shop, was a ladies' dressing-room. (fn. 11)

Trotter's experiment proved a success. A quarter of a century later Thomas Allen described it as 'a very extensive, novel and curious establishment' (fn. 12) and the most notable feature of Soho Square. Its success encouraged the opening of other bazaars elsewhere in London, for instance at the Pantheon in Oxford Street, which was remodelled in 1834 'to compete with the one in Soho-square', (fn. 14) but as late as 1843 Trotter's bazaar was still described as standing 'at the head of its class'. (fn. 15)

The bazaar continued in existence at Nos. 4–6 until 1889, when the building was taken over by the present occupants, the publishing firm of Adam and Charles Black. They had previously traded from Edinburgh but had purchased the freehold of Nos. 4–6, together with the back premises in Dean Street, for £16,000 in June 1889. The new owners had to carry out few internal alterations to the building and the mahogany counters of the bazaar were easily converted to office use. The façade of Trotter's warehouse, which had remained unchanged since the early years of the century, was altered by the insertion of the present shop front, with the consequent change in the position of the doorway from the central to the second bay. The architect responsible for these alterations was A. Lest. (fn. 16)

The building is four storeys high and seven windows in width, the yellow stock brick front having plain square-headed windows and an insignificant crowning cornice in stucco. Before alteration the ground storey had three wide roundarched openings alternating with narrower squareheaded ones. There are no internal features of interest except for some thin reeded mid nineteenth-century cast-iron columns supporting the glazed roof of a single-storeyed extension at the rear. The back premises at No. 6 Dean Street are described on page 131.


  • 1. M.L.R. 1726/5/31.
  • 2. R.B.
  • 3. Ibid., 1725/5/88–9.
  • 4. Ibid., 1726/5/30–1.
  • 5. Ibid., 1727/2/170.
  • 6. Ibid., 1726/5/30.
  • 7. Ibid., 1728/1/133; R.B.
  • 8. Journals of the House of Commons, vol. XXIV, p. 205.
  • 9. D.N.B.
  • 10. Rev. Joseph Nightingale, London and Middlesex, 1815, vol. III, part II, p. 666.
  • 11. Rev. Joseph Nightingale, The Bazaar, 1816, passim.
  • 12. Thomas Allen, The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster and Southwark, continued by Thomas Wright, 1839, vol. IV, p. 309.
  • 13. John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1868, pp. 40–1.
  • 14. The Farington Diary, ed. James Greig, 1922–8, vol. I, p. 218n.
  • 15. London, ed. Charles Knight, 1843, vol. V, p. 396.
  • 16. The Builder, 2 Aug. 1890, p. 97; J.D.N., Adam and Charles Black 1807–1957, 1959, pp. 51–4.