Soho Square Area: Portland Estate, No. 12 Soho Square

Pages 64-65

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

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No. 12 Soho Square

All the six houses (Nos. 12–17) which comprised the eastern range of the north side of the square (Plate 69a) were probably built by Richard Frith and William Pym in the years immediately after 1677. One of the corner houses —either No. 12 or No. 17—was sub-let in or before 1680 to John Costin, but in October 1680 Frith and Pym leased two of the houses (probably Nos. 16 and 17) to Cadogan Thomas of Lambeth, timber merchant, who within the next two months mortgaged both of them to Sir Thomas Chamber(s) of Hanworth, Middlesex. (fn. 1) In 1683 Benjamin Hinton of London, goldsmith, to whom both Frith and Thomas owed large sums of money, was declared bankrupt, (fn. 2) and in December 1684 they conveyed the equity of redemption of a number of sites in Soho Square, including the two now under discussion, to the group of merchants who were the assignees of Hinton's bankruptcy. (fn. 1) By his will, proved in March 1691/2, Chamber bequeathed his leasehold houses in King's Square to his son, Thomas, (fn. 3) who in June 1715 obtained from the second Earl (later the first Duke) of Portland separate leases of all six houses (Nos. 12–17) which extended his interest to 1769. (fn. 4)

The first known occupant of No. 12 was Craven Howard of Revesby, Lincolnshire, who lived here from at least 1691 to 1694; he later lived at No. 10. Later inhabitants include Sir Edward Pickering, fourth baronet, M.P., 1746–7, and Sir Charles Leblon, 1754. (fn. 5)

In 1754 the leases of Nos. 12 and 13 were in the possession of John Homer of St. James's, surgeon, to whom in October of that year the second Duke of Portland granted two leases extending the existing terms to 1799. Each lease contained a proviso that if Homer rebuilt the house before 1770 his term would be extended to 1853. (fn. 4) Both No. 12 and No. 13 were rebuilt in 1768–9 by Henry Homer of St. James's, gentleman, to whom the third Duke granted two new leases in February 1770. (fn. 6) Later inhabitants of No. 12 include the Venetian envoy, 1772–91 (he or his predecessor had previously lived at No. 31 and at No. 2), and (Sir) Anthony Carlisle, surgeon, 1800–19. (fn. 5)

No. 12 is shown on C. J. Richardson's water-colour of the north-east corner of Soho Square (Plate 69a), dated 1826, with the entrance in Soho Street. Tallis's view (fig. 4), dated 1838–40, shows that a shop front had been inserted, probably by the linen draper who occupied the house from 1822 to 1836. The name 'Hayes' shown above the shop front on Tallis's view was Joseph Hayes, a dentist.

At some date later in the century, probably after 1857, when the house passed into the possession of Messrs. Nixey, a firm of black-lead manufacturers, (fn. 5) the two street fronts were altered and embellished in the present manner, so that they now appear to be of mid nineteenth-century date. The house is of three storeys with another in a mansard roof and has the usual frontage of three windows to the square and a long return to Soho Street, the disused central entrance here having a two-storeyed bay window above it, supported on Doric columns. The stucco facing of the elevation to the square is typical mid nineteenth-century work with a rusticated and arcaded ground storey and pedimented first-floor windows. It is returned for a width of two windows into Soho Street, beyond which the bay window has been crudely reconstructed and the north end of this front much altered.

Plans of Nos. 12 and 13 are reproduced on fig. 10. Internally, some eighteenth-century work survives at No. 12 and its character is similar to No. 13 next door, which was built at the same time. There is an altered, top-lit, stone staircase placed centrally behind the old entrance with an incomplete wrought-iron balustrade, part of which has been re-used for a small firstfloor balcony facing the square. Little remains on the ground floor apart from a good original white marble chimneypiece in the French taste, in the front room to the square. On the first-floor landing are two carved and pedimented doorcases (Plate 128b), the rear one leading to a room with a fine but incomplete plaster ceiling, decorated with wreaths of naturalistic foliage overlaying an elliptical enclosure and with scroll ornament in the centre (Plate 130b). An enriched modillion cornice also survives in this room, as well as some original joinery with carved mouldings. The front room is now very bare, the only feature of interest being a plain, early nineteenth-century chimneypiece which retains its original grate with an unusual sliding wire guard of bowed form.


  • 1. P.R.O., KB27/2040/1187.
  • 2. P.R.O., C5/178/15.
  • 3. P.C.C., 34 Fane.
  • 4. Nottingham University, Portland MSS., Soho lease book.
  • 5. R.B.
  • 6. Nottingham University, Portland MSS., Soho lease book; R.B.