Great Windmill Street Area


English Heritage



F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor)

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'Great Windmill Street Area', Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32: St James Westminster, Part 2 (1963), pp. 41-56. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Great Windmill Street Area

Within a few years of the death of Mary Baker in c. 1665 most of her family's property passed to speculators, and building development began. Much of this work was of poor quality, and on 7 April 1671 a royal proclamation was published against unlicensed building in Windmill Fields, Dog Fields and Soho (ref. 1) (see page 7).

Colonel Thomas Panton, the speculator, had already started building on his ground on the east side of the Haymarket, and in the summer of 1671 he obtained a licence to complete his works there under the direction of the Surveyor General of the King's Works, (Sir) Christopher Wren. (ref. 2) In the same year he also petitioned the Privy Council for permission to continue Windmill Street northwards; to build 'On the East Corner towards the Haymarkett about 140 foot in front more or less. Also on the same side about 200 foot more or less over against Windmill Yard. Also to build on both sides a short street leading from out of Windmill Street over against Windmill Yard towards St. Giles. On the west side of Windmill Street between Counduit Court and Windmill Yard, a parcell of Back Ground with about fourtyfive foot of front to the sd. street.' John Brown and Salter (probably Burrage or Burgage Salter) had begun buildings on the west side of Windmill Street, and they too craved leave to finish their work. All the buildings were to be erected in accordance with Wren's directions. (ref. 3)

Panton's petition was evidently successful (although no record of any licence to him has been found). The precise disposition of all the sites mentioned is not entirely clear, but the west part of Archer Street and at least the eastern part (and perhaps the whole) of Queen (now Denman) Street were certainly built under the authority of this licence.

Panton Square

(Part later known as Arundel(l) Street). Demolished

Colonel Panton began to build the street later known as Panton Square in 1673, when nine names appear in the ratebooks under the heading 'Coll Panton's Buildings'. The street occupied the southern portion of the long strip of land which is marked on the plan of 1585 as formerly belonging to the Mercers' Company and then in the possession of Thomas Wilson, citizen and brewer, and which formed part of the ground bought by Robert Baker from Richard Wilson in 1618/19. In 1675 the street appears in the ratebooks as 'Panton Street by ye Laystall'. Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 and Blome's map of 1689 (Plates 3a, 4) both describe it as Panton Yard and show that it consisted of three interconnected yards, the southernmost having access to Coventry Street.

In 1720 Strype described it as 'a very large Place for Stabling and Coach-houses, there being one large Yard within another. This place is designed to be built into Streets, taking up a large Piece of Ground, and, according to Probability, will turn to better Advantage than at present.' (ref. 4) This expectation was evidently already in course of fulfilment, for the ratebooks for 1720 give several persons of title, including the Duke of St. Albans, as resident there, and Rocque's map of 1746 (Plate 6) shows that the yards had given place to a straight street leading to a small enclosed square at the north end of the site. The houses, several of which were occupied in the 1720's and 1730's by army officers (ref. 5) , are illustrated in a drawing by T. H. Shepherd on Plate 122c.

In 1762 the Moroccan Ambassador lived in Panton Square. We are informed that when 'One of his attendants happened to displease him: he had him brought up to the garret, and there sliced his head off'. An eye-witness relates that a violent crowd subsequently gathered before the house; 'they broke into it, demolished the furniture, threw everything they could lay their hands on out of the window, and threshed and beat the grand Moor and his retinue down the Haymarket, and afterwards attacked them wherever they found them.' (ref. 6) It is not known whether this story is true, but the State Papers contain numerous references to the irregular behaviour of the ambassador and his staff at about this time. (ref. 7)

Benjamin West, the painter, lived in Panton Square from 1768 to 1775, (ref. 8) and in 1863 the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé stayed for a short while at No. 9; (ref. 9) by this time many of the houses were used as boarding houses or hotels.

Colonel Panton died in 1685. In 1691 his daughter Elizabeth married Henry Arundell, fifth Baron Arundell of Wardour, (ref. 10) and the estate remained in the possession of the Arundell family until 1919, when it was sold by the Arundell Settled Estate to J. Lyons and Co. (ref. 11) (fn. a) A private Act of Parliament of 1913 had authorized the closure of the street, (ref. 14) and in the early 1920's the buildings were demolished and replaced by the westward extension of Messrs. Lyons' existing Corner House in Coventry Street (see page 43).

Coventry Street

This street is marked on the plan of 1585 as a highway leading (in terms of the modern streetnames) from the Haymarket to the junction of Whitcomb and Wardour Streets. At its eastern end there was a gate leading into St. Martin's Field, but at that time there was no further direct communication towards St. Martin's Lane. In 1613 this part of St. Martin's Field was bought for use as a military exercise ground and was known as the Military Garden or Yard; it was enclosed by a brick wall. (ref. 15) Thus the eastward extension of the line of Coventry Street was effectively blocked, and it was not until 1844 that the houses which were subsequently built upon the site of the Military Garden were demolished to provide direct access from Piccadilly to St. Martin's Lane. (ref. 16) Between 1877 and 1881 the Metropolitan Board of Works widened the whole length of Coventry Street by setting back the line of frontage of the southern side. (ref. 17)

Coventry Street takes its name from Henry Coventry, Secretary of State 1672–9, who from 1673 to 1686 lived in the building at the northeast corner of the Haymarket which had formerly been Simon Osbaldeston's gaming house. In the 1630's the latter had been nicknamed Shaver's Hall, but had subsequently come to be known as Piccadilly Hall—the name originally applied to Robert Baker's house nearby (see page 37n.)—and was so called during Coventry's residence there. (ref. 18) The street is first mentioned by name in the ratebook for 1682, and Ogilby and Morgan's map (Plate 3a) shows that buildings stood along the length of both sides in 1681–2.

The ground on the north side of the street between Great Windmill Street and a point some 50 feet west of Rupert Street was part of the land which Colonel Panton had acquired from the Bakers while the rest belonged to the Earl of St. Albans and was developed by Nicholas Barbon and others (see fig. 2). All the ground on the south side of the street is in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields and its history has been described in volume XX of the Survey of London.

Coventry Street now possesses a theatre, a cinema and several restaurants and has evidently always been noted as a centre of entertainment, for in 1846 J. T. Smith commented that 'There is a considerable number of gaming-houses in the neighbourhood at the present time, so that the bad character of the place is at least two centuries old, or ever since it was built upon'. (ref. 19) In his London Street Views of c. 1839 Tallis described Coventry Street as 'entirely composed of retail shops'. Today (1962) only the cement-faced upper part of No. 16 remains to show what the house fronts above those shops were like. Three or four storeys high, some with garrets, and two or three windows wide, these fronts were probably of stock brick or finished in stucco, although an earlier back wall in red brick survives at No. 16.

Nos. 10–12, to the east side of now-vanished Arundell Street, were demolished in 1920 to make way for the extension of Lyons' Corner House. Until then they retained the typical early nineteenth-century shop-front of Messrs. Lambert, the gold and silversmiths (Plate 137c). Except for the three plain doorways, this consisted of a continuous band of small-paned display windows, between low stall-boards and a narrow fascia with a meagre cornice. It was a shop-front of the plainest sort, with a canted angle and no curves in its windows.

A more elegant shop-front at No. 17 had smallpaned display windows projecting on each side of the central doorway, and a fascia finished with a pediment. It was designed by J. B. Papworth for Messrs. Clarkson and Turner, furniture-printers, 1822–7. (ref. 20) The carcase of this building still survives, but is now unrecognizable.

Lyons' Corner House, Coventry Street

Designs by W. J. Ancell for Messrs. J. Lyons' premises at the west corner of Coventry Street and Rupert Street were approved by the London County Council in 1907, and the building was erected shortly afterwards. The westward extension, which stood upon the site of Panton Square, was erected in 1921–3 to the designs of F. J. Wills (ref. 21) (Plate 138d).

In 1907 the new impervious preformed facing materials were much in use and were being applied to other large buildings, such as Debenham and Freebody's store. It is, however, the Corner Houses and hotels controlled by J. Lyons and Co. which form the most important group of London buildings having exteriors faced with white glazed terra-cotta.

Ancell's building, at the corner of Rupert Street, has four main storeys, the main cornice being below the third floor, in line with the Georgian roofs of former neighbours. The Coventry Street and Rupert Street elevations are crowded compositions, with blocked columns, balconies on consoles, and high pediments cleft to admit windows. Between the heavy attics of each front is a circular belvedere, crowned by a low gadrooned cupola with a small tapered column as a finial. The ground floor has been modernized, but the design of the original windows, with small glass-domed projecting bays, is perpetuated in the west extension, built in 1921–3.

The extension designed by F. J. Wills, built on the site of five small houses and over the former Arundell Street, is much larger in scale and simpler in character than the earlier Corner House. Ancell's main cornice line was ignored and the line of his roof parapet coincides with the base of the open loggia that fronts the third storey of the extension, so lofty are the two lower storeys. Altogether the building contains nine storeys, including two basements and two top floors (planned for the manufacture of chocolates). The subbasement was to contain machinery and storage space, and there were to be extensive cloak-rooms on the fourth floor. The dining-rooms on the other five floors, all with kitchens, were planned to offer accommodation for 3000 people at one sitting. (ref. 21)

A comparison of the two buildings shows that the Lyons 'house style' became progressively simpler, with a greater regard for architectural propriety.

Nos. 18–20 (consec.) Coventry Street: Scott's Restaurant

In 1872 Charles Sonnhammer and Emil Loibl, the proprietors of the London Pavilion Music Hall, opened an 'oyster warehouse' at No. 18 Coventry Street. (ref. 22) Two years later the partnership between Sonnhammer and Loibl at the London Pavilion was dissolved, (ref. 23) and in 1875 the former became the sole proprietor of the oyster business; by the following year, however, the ownership appears to have passed to other hands. Another change of ownership took place in 1891, when Nos. 18 and 19 Coventry Street became known as Scott's Oyster and Supper Rooms. (ref. 22) In 1892–4 they and No. 20 were rebuilt to the designs of Treadwell and Martin (ref. 24) (Plate 138c).

Unlike most of the new buildings in Shaftesbury Avenue, Scott's was built of Bath stone, in a style then described as Early French Renaissance. It is typical of Treadwell and Martin's work, and before it lost various finial ornaments from gables and turret, and acquired electric signs on the Coventry Street front, it provided a festive stop to the view from the bottom of the Haymarket.

Wine and coffee bars, 'lobster-boiling rooms', etc., were planned for the basement, oyster bars and a grill-room for the ground floor, with three floors of dining-rooms above, and pantries and sculleries on the top floor. The two façades on this corner site are related, each having a gable (one dated 1892, the other 1894) and there is an octagonal oriel-turret at the angle, with carved panels containing scallop-shells. Bands of carved vegetation are still visible on the Great Windmill Street front. The plinth and stunted columns of polished dark Labrador granite, and the unpolished Kemnay granite up to the first-floor sills have been coloured black and the Bath stone above appears to have been painted. (ref. 25)

Great Windmill Street

All of the ground on the east side of Great Windmill Street between Coventry Street and a point opposite Smith's Court is marked on the plan of 1585 (Plate 1) as in the possession of Widow Golightly; it is not known when it was acquired by her family. It was 570 feet long and some 100 feet wide, and its shape (like that of the adjoining strip to the east, which later formed the site of Panton Square) may have derived from the medieval open field system of cultivation. In c. 1612 Robert Baker acquired this ground for building; 'Piccadilly Hall' was erected there shortly afterwards, and its history has been described in the previous chapter. The ground at the northern extremity of the east side of Great Windmill Street is described on pages 117, 120.

All of the ground on the west side of Great Windmill Street between Coventry Street and Smith's Court is marked on the plan of 1585 as formerly part of the lands of the Mercers' Company, which were acquired by Henry VIII in 1536. It formed part of the ground granted in January 1559/60 by Queen Elizabeth to William Dodington, and in 1561 purchased by Thomas Wilson, brewer. In January 1618/19 it formed part of the twenty-two acres of land sold by Richard Wilson to Robert Baker, the builder of Piccadilly Hall (see page 25).

The windmill marked on the plan of 1585 is mentioned in the will, proved in 1590, of Thomas Wilson, citizen and brewer, who was probably responsible for building it, as it is not mentioned in earlier descriptions of the land. (ref. 26) The representations of the mill on Faithorne's map of 1658 (Plate 2) and a map of 1664 (ref. 27) show that it was of the post type. A parliamentary survey of 1651 describes it as 'well fitted with Staves and other materialls' and mentions a granary 'strongly built with Bricke and covered with Tile lofted over and commodiously divided for Corne'; there was also 'one old decayed dwelling house' and a stable and coach-house. To the south there was a range of six small tenements. (ref. 28) The mill stood upon the site of Ham Yard, (fn. b) which until the middle of the eighteenth century was called Windmill Yard. A considerable amount of rebuilding took place there in the 1690's (ref. 30) and the mill is unlikely to have survived. Strype, writing in 1720, describes Windmill Yard as a 'Place for Stablings' and does not mention a mill. (ref. 4)

In 1651 the way to the windmill from the south could still be described as only a foot-path, (ref. 28) but surreptitious building was probably already proceeding along much of its course. Soon after the death of Mary Baker in c. 1665 Colonel Thomas Panton obtained possession of much of the ground, and in 1671 the Privy Council granted him a licence to build (inter alia) along 200 feet of the east side of Great Windmill Street opposite Windmill Yard, and on the west side on a piece of back ground with a street frontage of about 45 feet. John Brown and Burrage Salter, (ref. 31) who were already building on this side of the street, appear to have been allowed to continue. (ref. 3) Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 shows continuous building along the length of both sides.

Builders or speculators who took part in this development included Abbott Newell, brickmaker, who died in c. 1675 'possessed of a very considerable personal estate', and whose daughter married Burrage Salter; (ref. 31) and James Supple, gentleman, who from 1655 paid a fine for the Lammas land that was formerly Sir Henry Vane's. (ref. 32) Supple's ground lay at the corner of Windmill Street and Shugg Lane, upon the site later occupied by Conduit Court, of which he was probably the builder, and which first appears in the ratebooks in 1664. His daughter, Ann, married White Tichborne of Aldershot, esquire, (ref. 33) whose family retained possession of this property until after the death of Sir Henry Tichborne in 1845; part of the site is now occupied by the London Pavilion. (ref. 34)

Paul de Lamerie, silversmith, lived from 1712 to 1737 in a house in Great Windmill Street on this estate. (ref. 35) The Red Lion public house, at the north corner of Archer Street, has been in existence since at least 1793. (ref. 29)

When Shaftesbury Avenue was formed the line of frontage of the east side between the new street and Dr. Hunter's house (see page 48) was set back a few feet. The rest of Great Windmill Street is, by modern standards, narrow, and it is therefore interesting to note that Strype, in 1720, had described it as 'indifferent good, and broad'. (ref. 4)

The northern two-thirds of Great Windmill Street have been visually divorced from the southern third by the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue. In this southern portion, the entire west side is taken up by the back elevation of the London Pavilion, and the east side begins at the south end with the return front of Scott's Restaurant (see pages 43, 81) and ends with the return front of the Trocadero Restaurant (see page 83). Between these buildings is a small early nineteenthcentury house and shop, No. 3, and the car park on the site of St. Peter's Church.

North of Shaftesbury Avenue, as far as Archer Street, the east side is heterogeneous in character, comprising the wide return front of the former Avenue Hotel, now a bank and offices, the much altered front range of Dr. Hunter's house, and the Windmill Theatre. The west side, from Denman Street to Brewer Street, and the east side above Archer Street, offer more evidence of the size and character of the original houses. Nos. 29 and 30, and probably Nos. 21 and 22, of three storeys, and Nos. 31, 34 and 40, of four storeys, all with two windows to each storey above modern shopfronts, are modest eighteenth-century houses. A water-colour view of Dr. Hunter's house in 1879 (ref. 36) shows to the south of it a pair of early eighteenth-century houses, originally Nos. 14 and 15, with two-storeyed fronts of stock brick and red brick dressings to the windows, which had exposed sash-boxes.

St. Peter's Church, Great Windmill Street


In August 1854 The Builder reported plans for a new church, to be sited in Coventry Street, between Rupert Street and Princes Street (now part of Wardour Street). Among the subscribers mentioned at this time were Queen Victoria and the Bishop of London. (ref. 37) A year later the project was mentioned again (ref. 38) and on 13 April 1858 the Rev. George Smith was licensed by the Bishop of London as an assistant curate in St. James's parish, to officiate in the 'East Church District'. (ref. 39)

By 1860 the proposed site in Coventry Street had been abandoned in favour of one on the east side of Great Windmill Street, land formerly occupied by Nos. 4, 5 and 6. The foundation stone of St. Peter's Church was laid on 25 June 1860 by the fourteenth Earl of Derby (ref. 40) and the completed building was consecrated on 12 July 1861. (ref. 41) The architect was Raphael Brandon (best known for his design for the great cruciform Catholic Apostolic Church in Gordon Square), and the builder George Myers. The stone carver was S. J. Ruddock. Glass was provided for the east windows of the aisles by Messrs. Lavers and Barraud. (ref. 42) Other windows in the church were later filled with painted glass. (ref. 43) An organ by Messrs. Gray and Davison was a later addition. (ref. 44)

The cost of the church was £5500 plus a further £6000 for the site. Because of the poverty of the new district, these funds had to be raised from outside sources, the largest single contribution being £4500 from the Earl of Derby. (ref. 45) A district was formally assigned to the church on 7 February 1865. (ref. 39)

St. Peter's Church was frequently attended by Lord Salisbury, and W. E. Gladstone is said to have worshipped there daily while living in London. (ref. 46) The latter may first have come into contact with St. Peter's through his support of the work carried on there for the reclamation of prostitutes. (ref. 47)

In 1953 St. Peter's was united with the combined parishes of St. Anne's and St. Thomas's, Soho. The church was closed in April 1954 (ref. 48) and demolished. (ref. 49)

Brandon's design for St. Peter's was dictated by the cramped and enclosed site, with limited light from the east and only the west end exposed to the public view (Plate 11b, 11c). External expression was therefore limited to a street façade, although a south-east tower was intended, as shown in contemporary engravings. (ref. 50) The style of the building was variously described as 'a Northern French rather than an English edition of First Pointed', or fourteenth-century, 'like the choir of some Continental cathedral'. (ref. 51)

Constructed of brick but faced inside and out with Bath stone, it was an aisled church with a clerestoried nave and a short absidal chancel, flanked by a vestry and the base of an intended tower. The maximum dimensions were 100 feet by 50 feet and the height was 55 feet. Daylight was derived from three sources, the five tall windows of the apse, the coupled lancets of the nave clerestory, and the large west window with four lights and a traceried head. The west front with its large gable expressed the relatively lofty nave and the meagre dark aisles. It was flanked by buttress-turrets, square below and chamfered to octagons above, which survive without their pinnacles on either side of the entrance to the present (1962) car park. Also standing in part are the aisle walls with their internal buttresses (there having been neither space nor architectural justification for external buttresses). The arcades of the nave were formed of pointed arches springing from the carved capitals of cylindrical columns, each of which bore small corbelled shafts of red Mansfield stone on its east and west sides. A braced open timber roof covered the nave, but the roof of the sanctuary was rib-vaulted. (ref. 52)

The Trocadero Music Hall Site

In 1744 John Cartwright of the parish of St. James, gentleman, leased a plot of ground on the east side of Windmill Street to Thomas Higginson of St. Giles in the Fields, gentleman, for ninety-nine years. The lease was granted in consideration of the charges and expenses which Higginson 'hath already been put to in erecting and building the Tennis Court and Vaults' which were then nearing completion. The ground had a frontage of 49 feet and a depth of 116 feet. (ref. 11) It has been said that the tennis court had been 'attached to a gaming-house called Piccadilly Hall', (ref. 53) but the lease makes it quite clear that in 1744 it was an entirely new-built structure, and the ratebooks indicate that the site had in 1742 been occupied by half-a-dozen small cottages.

Thomas Higginson remained in occupation of the tennis court, which had the second highest rateable value of all the buildings in the street, until 1761. Later occupants were Mary Rogers, 1763–8; James Ashley, 1769–83; Robert Handy (Hendy), 1784–92; William Quentery, 1793–1803; and William Tyler, 1805–16. (ref. 5)

During the 1820's and two succeeding decades the tennis court was used as a circus, a theatre and a venue for miscellaneous exhibitions and entertainments. In January 1822 'Senior Christopher Lee Sugg' practised ventriloquy and conjuring, (ref. 54) (fn. c) and a year later the Lord Chamberlain granted a licence to Charles Adams 'to have Horsemanship and Rope Dancing for his Benefit at the Tennis Court' for four weeks. (ref. 55) The ratebook for 1829 describes the premises as 'house, tennis court and billiard rooms', while that for the following year contains a marginal note 'Part of these premises converted into a Theatre.' In the summer of 1831 'Cooke's Royal Circus' was performing there, but in December 1832 the premises were advertised as the Royal Albion Theatre, where burlettas, farces and dramas were to be performed. The regulations governing the licensing of theatres were evaded by the issue of subscription tickets, no money being taken at the doors. (ref. 56)

Two water-colour drawings dating from about this period (ref. 57) (Plate 28a, 28c) show that there were two galleries extending round three sides of the hall and resting on pillars; the pit was furnished with backless benches. The street front was a rather blank screen-wall of stucco, or possibly stone, two storeys high and equalling the three-storeyed house on its north side. A triangular recessed porch on three Doric columns formed the entrance to the boxes and pit, and a modest door served the gallery.

In 1833 and 1834 it appears that the Lord Chamberlain granted to Mr. W. Elliott, the proprietor of the theatre, some kind of 'limited temporary Permission' for dramatic performances, (ref. 58) but despite the high-sounding name of the New Queen's Theatre the threat of closure was never far away. (ref. 59) In November 1834 it became the Theatre of Arts, but by the spring of the following year it had become the New Queen's Theatre again, and in June (now as the Royal Albion Subscription Theatre) the current production was 'a New Melo-Drama called Olga', the programme being concluded with a 'New Pantomime called Mother Shipton'. (ref. 60)

In August 1835 an informer drew the Lord Chamberlain's attention to bills announcing a series of performances by the famous Covent Garden actress Sarah Booth, and the theatre was closed by a Bow Street magistrate. Sarah Booth subsequently petitioned unsuccessfully for a licence, (ref. 61) but by December Thomas Cooke, who had been in the circus business for thirty years and had 'a family of forty children and grand children', had become the lessee and was clamouring unsuccessfully for a licence. (ref. 62)

During the 1840's the building was used by John Dubourg as an exhibition room for his mechanical wax works and his 'Grand Centrifugal Railway'. (ref. 63) The premises were often referred to as 'Dubourg's Theatre of Arts' but in 1846, when he presented a programme of tableaux vivants representing historical scenes, he called the building 'The Ancient Hall of Rome'. (ref. 64)

In 1842 the freehold of the building, the ninety-nine-year lease of which was about to expire, was bought by (Sir) John Musgrove of Austin Friars in the City of London. Seven years later the latter leased the exhibition and other rooms for twenty-one years to Robert Bignell, wine merchant, who had been Dubourg's partner or employee. (ref. 11) By 1851 Bignell had opened assembly rooms there called the Argyll Rooms, (ref. 65) a name presumably taken as a reminiscence of the famous rooms in Argyll Street whose career had come to an end in 1830 (see page 301).

It was evidently in about 1850 that an Italianate front, probably in stucco, was grafted on to the two-storeyed earlier building of the theatre (Plate 28b). The new front had lofty Florentine firstfloor windows and a prominent crowning cornice, and the entrance was formed by recessed loggias, later converted into vestibules. The interior (Plate 28d) consisted of a large and lofty hall which, except for a lobby, occupied the full site depth of 116 feet. Around the four sides extended a gallery, one end accommodating the musicians. Behind them was a large gilt-framed mirror, reflecting the whole length of the hall and the tall Florentine windows above the gallery level. Gasoliers hung from the heavily moulded square compartments of the ceiling, and gilt-framed paintings or mirrors, placed above long benches, lined the walls below the gallery. (ref. 66)

The Argyll Rooms soon achieved notoriety, and in 1862 Henry Mayhew, when describing prostitution in London, mentioned that 'A drawing-room floor in Queen Street [now Denman Street] . . . which is a favourite part on account of its proximity to the Argyll Rooms, is worth three, and sometimes four pounds a week'. (ref. 67) H. G. Hibbert, who patronized the place in the 1870's, compared it to 'a modern night club, without its perfunctory condition of election to membership. You just bought a ticket and went in—to mix with the demi-reps and the demi-mondaines who danced and drank till morning'. (ref. 68) Bignell made a great fortune out of the place, and in 1864 he acquired the freehold of it (ref. 11) but he was finally deprived of his licence for music and dancing and the Argyll Rooms closed on 30 November 1878. (ref. 69)

On 30 October 1882 Bignell re-opened his premises, this time as a music hall called the Trocadero Palace. (ref. 64) The bar occupied almost the whole length of one side of the auditorium, and the two rooms were connected by a series of arches. (ref. 70) 'For elegance and comfort' the Trocadero was said to be superior to any other music hall in London, and its programmes were 'characterized by greater refinement, or perhaps we ought to say less vulgarity' than those of its rivals. (ref. 64)

Despite these advantages the Trocadero only flourished during the fourteen months beginning in July 1886 when Charles Coborn sang Two Lovely Black Eyes, his famous parody of a forgotten Christy Minstrel song, My Nellie's Blue Eyes. (ref. 71) In 1888 Bignell died, and his trustees then leased the Trocadero to Samuel Adams, (ref. 11) an experienced music hall proprietor who ran it, without more success than his predecessor, until his death in 1893. The hall was then acquired by H. J. Didcott, the theatrical agent, who ran it until March 1894 in partnership with Albert Chevalier. (ref. 72) (fn. d)

Meanwhile the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue in 1885–6 had placed the north-west corner of the Trocadero at the obtuse angle formed by the junction of the new street with Windmill Street (fig. 8). A narrow tapering plot of building ground lay between the new street and the north side of the hall—a thoroughly bad piece of street planning by the Metropolitan Board of Works, dictated no doubt by the desire to avoid the heavy cost which the compulsory purchase of the Trocadero would have involved. A block of shops and 'residential mansions' known as Avenue Mansions had been erected upon this most awkwardly shaped plot in 1888–9 (Plate 29a).

In 1895 Bignell's grand-daughter granted a ninety-nine-year lease of the Trocadero to J. Lyons and Co. Ltd., who converted it to its present use as a restaurant. The principal entrance was moved from Great Windmill Street to Shaftesbury Avenue by the acquisition of No. 8, the most westerly of the shops in Avenue Mansions, and the formation of openings in the party wall between it and the restaurant. (ref. 11) In 1899 Lyons and Co. acquired the lease of the whole of Avenue Mansions, and between 1900 and 1902 the building was extensively altered to suit it for use as a restaurant (ref. 74) (Plate 29b). The history of Avenue Mansions and the Trocadero Restaurant is described in more detail under Shaftesbury Avenue on page 83.

No. 16 Great Windmill Street: Dr. William Hunter's Anatomical Theatre And House

Demolished, except for the front to Great Windmill Street

A few yards north of Shaftesbury Avenue there stands upon the east side of Great Windmill Street the façade of a large house (Plate 135b) which was built by the famous Scottish physician, Dr. William Hunter, in 1767. A plaque records this distinguished origin, which might otherwise be forgotten, for the façade no longer has much distinction, extensive alterations having been made to adapt the building to its present use as part of the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Its position, slightly askew to Great Windmill Street, rather than its present aspect, provides the clue to the long history of the site, for the ratebooks show that a large house has stood here since at least the 1670's, when higgledy-piggledy building along the track to the windmill was proceeding. The occupants in 1675 were 'Doct. Thom Lee and Doct. Disborough,' whose assessment of forty shillings, several times larger than that of any other in the street, proclaims the importance of their house at that time. 'Doct. Disborough' was probably Doctor James Desborough, the nephew of MajorGeneral John Desborough. From at least 1683 until 1698 the house was occupied by Colonel Charles Godfrey, who married Arabella Churchill after the termination of her connexion with James II, and who became, through the influence of his brother-in-law (the first Duke of Marlborough), Clerk Controller of the Green Cloth and Master of the Jewel Office. (ref. 75) In 1699 the occupant was Charles Godolphin, esquire, and in 1700 Robert Sutton, Baron Lexinton, envoy extraordinary at Vienna 1694–7 and a lord of the bedchamber to William III. For a few years the house was next occupied by Hugh Boscawen, later first Viscount Falmouth, whose wife Charlotte was the daughter of Colonel Godfrey and Arabella Churchill. He was probably succeeded by Sir John Shadwell (son of the poet laureate Thomas Shadwell), who was successively physician in ordinary to Anne, George I and George II, and whose connexion with the house lasted from at least 1716 until 1744, or possibly until his death in 1747. A series of comparatively short tenancies then followed, but it is interesting to note that from 1758 to 1766 there was yet another medical connexion, when Dr. Thomas Pollock lived here. In 1767 the ratebooks give Dr. William Hunter and describe the house as 'Empty Rebuilding'. (ref. 75)

William Hunter (1718–83) and his younger brother John (1728–93) were two of the greatest of the many famous physicians of Scottish extraction. The former came to London in 1740, and gave his first course of anatomical lectures in 1746, probably at a house in Covent Garden. (ref. 76) The teaching of anatomy had been greatly facilitated by the dissolution in the previous year of the United Company of Barbers and Surgeons, which had been able to control the dissection of human bodies outside their Hall, and Hunter quickly won fame in this field. (ref. 77) From 1755 to 1766 he lived in Jermyn Street, (ref. 78) and it was probably during these years that he began to form his collection of anatomical specimens.

In 1762 or 1763 he addressed a memorial to the Earl of Bute, then First Lord of the Treasury, describing his plan to establish a permanent school of anatomy 'under the royal protection', and asking 'to be allowed a proper piece of ground, that he may forthwith lay out six, or even seven thousand pounds, in erecting a building fit for this purpose, under any condition that may be agreeable to the King.' (ref. 79) Shortly afterwards he delivered a sketch plan of the proposed establishment, which shows that he envisaged a small house, with a museum, library, circular dissecting theatre and a burial ground. (fn. e)

In 1764 the Deputy Surveyor General of Crown Lands reported that a suitable site might be found in the Savoy or at the Royal Mews at Charing Cross. By this time George Grenville had replaced Bute as first Lord of the Treasury. After much delay Hunter called at the Treasury where he 'found that nothing was done', and he therefore considered himself released from his part in the proposal. (ref. 81) Shortly afterwards the Earl of Shelburne proposed that the plan should be carried out by public subscription, 'and very generously requested to have his name set down for a thousand guineas. Dr. Hunter's delicacy would not allow him to adopt this proposal'. (ref. 82)

Hunter appears next to have briefly considered returning to Scotland to establish, in conjunction with Dr. William Cullen, 'a School of Physic upon a noble plan at Glasgow'. (ref. 83) But in 1766 he decided to proceed with his original scheme on his own account, and bought the house in Great Windmill Street. (ref. 84)

Rebuilding took place in the following year, (ref. 5) the architect being a fellow Scot, Robert Mylne, with whom Hunter was connected by marriage. One of Mylne's plans for the building survives in Sir Albert Richardson's collection, (ref. 85) and is reproduced on Plate 135a. (fn. f) Mylne's plan shows that the house itself was almost square, with three rooms simply and conveniently arranged on either side and at the east end of a passage hall, 8 feet wide and 24 feet 4 inches deep, including the small compartment at the east end. On the south side was the dining-room, 17 feet 4 inches wide and 24 feet 4 inches deep, with two windows towards the street; at the east end was the study, 26 feet 6 inches wide and 17 feet 6 inches deep, with three windows towards the garden; on the north side was the parlour, 17 feet 4 inches square, and behind it to the east were the principal and service staircases. East of the staircases projected a long wing, extending to the eastern boundary of the site. Adjoining the house was the library and museum, a great oblong room 51 feet long and 27 feet wide, including its lining of cases for books and exhibits, presumably having a gallery and receiving daylight from roof-lights or a clerestory. In the middle of the wing was a lobby and a staircase, reached from Great Windmill Street by an open passage on the north side of the house and library. East of the lobby and staircase was the anatomical theatre, on the first floor over some living accommodation, and beyond this last was a yard leading to rooms for the preparation of 'subjects'. These were presumably stored in a long room and a shed beyond the east end of the garden. The Royal College of Surgeons possesses an undated water-colour drawing by Rowlandson of a dissecting room, but it is not known whether this room was Dr. Hunter's or a similar establishment elsewhere.

The original appearance of the front is shown in an unsigned and undated water-colour drawing in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons (Plate 135c). From this it is evident that the house contained a basement and three storeys, but no garret. The design, although extremely simple, had the amplitude and fine proportions that were typical of Mylne's work. An amber stock brick appears to have been used, the window openings having gauged flat arches of the same colour whereas the concentric arches of the doorway were of fine red rubbers. A plain stone bandcourse, forming a sill to the first-floor windows, divided the front into two stages. The lower contained the arched doorway with two widely spaced windows on either side. A porch of Ionic columns, clearly shown on the plan, projected before the doorway, below the fanlight within the arch lunette. In the upper stage of the front were two tiers of five windows, widely and evenly spaced, those of the first floor being proportioned to a double square, like those of the ground storey, and those of the second floor being square. A bold cornice and blocking-course of stone finished the front. As late as 1879, when the premises were known as the Café or Hôtel de L'Etoile, the front appears to have remained unchanged apart from the addition of some signs and lampholders. (ref. 88)

The first anatomical lecture took place at the new house in Great Windmill Street on 1 October 1767. (ref. 89) A contemporary says that 'besides a handsome amphitheatre and other convenient apartments for his lectures and dissections, there was one magnificent room, fitted up with great elegance and propriety as a museum'. (ref. 82) Dr. Hunter went to live there in the summer of 1768. In a letter written to Dr. Cullen in the spring of that year he wrote that 'I have already paid above £6000 for my habitation in Wind-mill Street, which will cost me at least two more'. (ref. 90)

Hunter lectured regularly for the rest of his life, but in 1774 he took another Scot, William Cruikshank, into partnership, and a few years later he was joined by his nephew, Matthew Baillie, who was first a pupil and then a lecturer. (ref. 91) Hunter died at his house on 30 March 1783, and was buried in St. James's Church, where he is commemorated by a tablet on the south wall. In 1827 he was described as 'the father of the anatomical schools of London, and [he] bequeathed a fame and character to his class, which has been supported with undiminished lustre to the present day'. (ref. 92)

By his will Hunter bequeathed his house, museum and lecture theatre to three trustees who were to permit his nephew to live there for thirty years, (fn. g) and either by himself or with the help of Cruikshank, to read lectures in anatomy. His anatomical and other collections were similarly disposed, but after thirty years the buildings were to become Baillie's absolutely and the collections were to pass to the Principal and Faculty of the College of Glasgow for the use of themselves and the students. (ref. 93)

Baillie and Cruikshank continued to lecture until 1799, when the former retired in order to give his whole time to his professional practice. (fn. h) He was succeeded by James Wilson. Cruikshank died in June 1800 and was succeeded by his sonin-law, Leigh Thomas, who demonstrated but did not lecture. After Thomas's departure in 1805 Wilson was joined by (Sir) Benjamin Collins Brodie, and three years later they bought the building from Baillie for £4000. (ref. 91) Dr. Hunter's collections were removed in 1807 to Glasgow University, where they still remain. (ref. 95)

In 1812 Wilson sold the house and teaching premises to (Sir) Charles Bell, (fn. i) who in a letter to his brother written in June said 'It would delight you to see me the proprietor of this museum, which looks great, even now in its great confusion—a noble room nobly filled. It is a room admired for its proportions, of great size, with a handsome gallery running round; the class-room door opens from the gallery. It would require a month to go round the museum with a book in your hand.' (ref. 96) (fn. j) From 1815 part of the premises—possibly the house—appears to have been used as a printing office (ref. 5) but Bell continued to lecture there until his appointment in 1826 as first professor of surgery at the newly established University College. He was succeeded by Herbert Mayo and Caesar Hawkins, but in 1830 the former became professor of anatomy at King's College, London. The school of anatomy in Great Windmill Street came to an end in the following year. (ref. 97)

For some years the building was used for various industrial purposes, including printing, although in 1838 Dr. John Epps is given as the occupant of the medical theatre. In 1860 part of the premises was described as 'French dining rooms', and was later known as the Hôtel de L'Etoile. (ref. 22) The building was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works for the formation of Shaftesbury Avenue, but it was eventually not required for this purpose, and in 1887 it was sold to H. J. Leslie, the proprietor of the Lyric Theatre, of which it has ever since formed part. (ref. 98)

The architect of the Lyric Theatre was C. J. Phipps (see page 74), whose final plans indicate the changes he made in Dr. Hunter's house to adapt its three storeys for use as four storeys of dressing-rooms, part of the stage occupying the site of the back rooms of the house. (ref. 99) The front door (later a window) was at first retained, with the stage door added on the north side of the building. A staircase was inserted in part of a north front room, the original staircase having been at the back of the house; the only first-floor window of original size lights the stairs. Presumably the two ground-floor windows at the north end of the front are of the original size, as are those of the top floor. All the others date from 1887 or after (Plate 135b).

In 1904 A. Blomfield Jackson of 26 Mecklenburgh Square (which had been Phipps's office address) made further alterations, including the addition of an outside iron staircase, since removed. The arch over the former front door, if it still exists, is now covered by a substantial sign-board, and the entire front is painted red.

The Windmill Theatre

The greater part of this building was erected in 1897 for the Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate Ltd. (ref. 5) It is a plain stone structure, now painted at ground-floor level, with four storeys, and broad superimposed pilasters with each entablature breaking over them, the cornices forming continuous sill-courses to bands of windows. There was a rusticated entrance (now a theatre exit) in Great Windmill Street.

The building was first licensed for cinematographic exhibitions in January 1910 (ref. 100) and shortly afterwards became known as the Palais de Luxe Cinema. It consisted of a basement, ground floor and five upper storeys, and most of the floors were of steel and concrete. The cinema accommodated about 350 people; the capacity was later increased to about 600 by the construction of a balcony. (ref. 101)

In 1930 the building was bought by the Windmill Theatre Company Limited and the cinema was closed. (ref. 101) The effective owner was now Mrs. Laura Henderson, the sixty-nine year old widow of a wealthy jute merchant, who at once set about 'gutting the building and constructing in the shell of it a really modern onepiece theatre'. (ref. 102) The architect was F. Edward Jones, (ref. 101) and the theatre opened on 22 June 1931 with a play, Inquest! (ref. 64)

Figure 4: Windmill Theatre, Great Windmill Street, plan in 1949

It was probably at this time that the present distinctive south-west entrance to the theatre was erected. This part, five storeys high over the canted doorway, is faced with glazed white terracotta, the ground floor being painted. Two prominent turrets were supposed to give it the style of the traditional windmill. The theatre had a small one-tier auditorium, with lounge bar and dressing-rooms in the basement (fig. 4).

The capacity of the theatre was then only 312, and by October the proprietors had reverted to showing films. At about this time Mrs. Henderson met Vivian Van Damm, who had just been offered a job at £80 per week, and persuaded him to become general manager at a salary of £8 per week. 'The theatre was there, waiting for a truly great idea to make it a commercial proposition', and after a few more weeks of films the idea of non-stop 'flesh and blood vaudeville' was suggested by Lucien Samett. Mrs. Henderson decided to back the idea with £10,000, and the theatre opened (ref. 103) on 3 February 1932. (ref. 104)

Non-stop revue is now in its thirtieth year at the Windmill, and the comments of The Times on 4 February 1932 are of some interest. 'The Windmill Theatre turned last night from talking films to variety and revue turns. They will begin every day shortly after lunch and continue until shortly before supper. Mrs. Laura Henderson hopes in this way to give employment to British artists and to put into British pockets money that would otherwise go to Hollywood. It is a deserving enterprise, and last night's audience heartily applauded its gallantry; but it would have a better prospect of success if the material available were taken in hand by a producer with definite ideas. He might make a revue, pointful rather than spectacular, or try to fashion a variety programme with a character of its own. The entertainment now depends on tricks rather than ideas, on tricks, and on the dancing girls. The girls achieve some pretty effects, but the stage is really too small for this kind of spectacle.' (ref. 104)

Apart from the astonishing longevity of the form of entertainment with which it is associated, the Windmill is also distinguished by the fact that of all the theatres in London it was the only one to remain open throughout the whole of the war of 1939–45. (fn. k) The building was frequently damaged by the blast of several types of aerial bombardment, and on one occasion the wall at the back of the stalls was severely damaged. The Windmill's boast that 'We Never Closed' was not lightly earned, and has given the theatre its unique cachet in the world of entertainment. (ref. 106)

Mrs. Henderson died in 1944 and bequeathed the theatre to Vivian Van Damm (ref. 64) who in 1959 bought the freehold of the site. (ref. 107) Van Damm died in 1960. (ref. 108)

St. James's and St. Peter's C. E. Primary School

St. Peter's Temporary Schools appear to have been established in about 1860–1 at the same time as the church. Their first home was an old building in a yard behind what was then No. 40 Rupert Street, and is now part of the site of the Apollo Theatre. (ref. 43)

In November 1870 the incumbent and churchwardens of St. Peter's obtained Nos. 23 Windmill Street and 1–2 Queen's Head Court from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and in the following year new National Schools were opened on the site. (ref. 109) These were built as a memorial to the fourteenth Earl of Derby, who had been a liberal benefactor to St. Peter's Church. (ref. 44) In 1877 the site of No. 15 Archer Street was acquired, and the school building extended by the addition of a new wing. This was the gift of Lord Francis Hervey, who had also been a liberal contributor to the earlier building, (ref. 110) and who laid the commemorative stone for the new one on 10 May 1877. (ref. 111)

The main front of 1870 at No. 23 Great Windmill Street is an attempt to compress an imposing façade within the width of a small Georgian house (Plate 12a). This front is three storeys high and three windows wide, being built of yellow stock brick dressed with stone and ornamental bands of cut brick. Over the centred doorway is a round recess containing a small bust, with a plaque inscribed 'Edward Geoffrey, fourteenth Earl of Derby'. Carved in a smaller recess above the first floor are the crossed keys of St. Peter.

All the available evidence seems to suggest that the Archer Street wing of the school is an adaptation and Gothicising, carried out in 1877, of a Georgian house. An old photograph and a watercolour drawing (ref. 112) show that in its original state this was a brick-fronted house, with stone or stucco bandcourses, and exposed window-frames in segmental-arched openings.

Nos. 45 and 46 Great Windmill Street: St. James's Tavern

A public house has stood on this site since at least 1733. Until the 1890's it was known as the Catherine Wheel, (ref. 29) but after the present building was erected in 1896–7, to the designs of W. M. Brutton, (ref. 113) the name was changed to the St. James's Tavern. (ref. 22)

Archer Street

This street first appears in the ratebook for 1675 as Arch Street. In 1720 Strype described it as 'Orchard-street, broad, but of no great Account', (ref. 4) but Rocque's map of 1746 gives Archer Street. In Colonel Panton's building petition of 1671 it may be identified as the 'short street leading from out of Windmill Street over against Windmill Yard towards St. Giles.' (ref. 3) Rocque's and Horwood's maps of 1746 and 1792 show that originally the street came to an abrupt end at the eastern boundary of Panton's ground, and that it was only connected to Rupert Street by a narrow passage through a stable yard. By 1836, however, the stable buildings had been demolished and Archer Street extended to Rupert Street. (ref. 114)

Archer Street was lined for the most part with modest houses. Old photographs and a topographical drawing show a pair of small-scaled cottages of about 1700, such as may still be seen in the old suburban villages of London. (ref. 112)

To-day, the north side has a public house at each end, and the buildings between them include a gaunt Victorian Gothic school (see above), the relatively distinguished neo-Georgian offices of a musical organization, a small factory and a grey stretch of artisans' dwellings. The south side is largely taken up by the backs of three theatres, the Apollo, the Lyric and the Windmill.

Archer Street Chambers

No. 9 Archer Street and No. 9a behind it are part of a complex of artisans' dwellings built in 1882–3, many years after Archer Street had been extended as a thoroughfare to Rupert Street. (ref. 5) The elevation is in the same grim style as those of the corner public house (the White Horse) and Nos. 47–53 (odd) Rupert Street, at which point Rupert Street originally ended. The grey brick front (Plate 139a) has five similar storeys, each with three windows, grouped as a pair and a single light, on either side of the rusticated entrance archway and the windows lighting the staircase halflandings. The incised and faceted brick segmental arches of the windows, the narrow stringcourses of nail-head ornament, and the bracketed main cornice are all repeated on the public house and the four houses in Rupert Street.

Nos. 13–14 Archer Street

Before the erection of the present buildings on this site in 1912 there was a pair of cottages here, dating from about 1700 and containing two low storeys and a garret (Plate 123a). Both houses had a single wide window in the ground storey, one being a bay shop-front, but in the upper storey one house had three evenly spaced windows while the other had one of three lights. The simple brick front, with a stone bandcourse between the storeys, was finished with a modillioned eavescornice, and the tiled roof was broken by two dormers of two lights, with hipped roofs. (ref. 112)

On the site of these cottages was built, in 1912, the headquarters of the Orchestral Association, designed by H. P. Adams and C. H. Holden. (ref. 115) It is a building of four storeys, five bays wide with the outside bays slightly recessed. Mildly early Georgian in style, the front is of grey brick sparingly dressed with stone. The rectangular doorway is dressed with a flat cornice-hood, and above the middle window of the first floor is a relief carving of Euterpe, by Charles Pibworth.


Queen Street was laid out in the 1670's by Colonel Thomas Panton, whose petition of 1671 (see page 41) included a request for permission to build upon 'a parcell of Back Ground with about fourty-five foot of front' to the west side of Great Windmill Street between Conduit Court and Windmill (now Ham) Yard. (ref. 3) Queen Street is first mentioned by name in the ratebook for 1678. Strype described it in 1720 as 'a pretty neat, clean, and quiet Street, with good Houses, well inhabited'. (ref. 4)

In 1862 the Metropolitan Board of Works changed the name to Denman Street, presumably in commemoration of Dr. Thomas Denman (1733–1815), who had lived in a house on the south side of the street. One of Denman's daughters married Matthew Baillie, the nephew and heir of Dr. William Hunter, the founder of the school of anatomy in Great Windmill Street. Denman's eldest son was born in the house in Queen Street in 1779, and, as Lord Denman, was Lord Chief Justice from 1832 to 1850. (ref. 116)

No. 10 Queen Street was occupied by Queen Adelaide's Lying-in Hospital from 1837 until its removal in 1852 to Coventry Street, and subsequently to Dean Street. (ref. 117)

The Queen's Head public house, adjoining the Piccadilly Theatre, has existed under that name since at least 1738. The Devonshire Arms, at the south corner with Sherwood Street, has existed since at least 1793. (ref. 29)

The Piccadilly Theatre

The Piccadilly Theatre stands on a corner site on the east side of Sherwood Street at its intersection with Denman Street. It was built by the Piccadilly Theatre Company, the first licensee being Edward Laurillard. The joint architects were Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone and the general contractors were Griggs and Son. The theatre opened on 27 April 1928 with Blue Eyes, a romantic musical play by Jerome Kern, with book and lyrics by Guy Bolton and Graham John. (ref. 118) It was subsequently used as a cinema.

The theatre achieved its first success with Folly to be Wise which ran for most of 1931, and in 1933–4 James Bridie's A Sleeping Clergyman ran for 230 performances. (ref. 119) In 1935–6 there was an unrewarding season of variety and the next success was not until July 1941 with Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, which was soon transferred elsewhere. Post-war productions have included Peter Ustinov's Romanoff and Juliet. The theatre was entirely redecorated in 1955, and again in 1961–2. (ref. 120)

The auditorium lies on a south-west to northeast axis with its back wall parallel to Sherwood Street and the stage at the easterly end of the site. The obtuse angle formed by the junction of Sherwood and Denman Streets is rounded by the façade which is terminated in Denman Street by a projecting wing, actually containing a separate public house, the Queen's Head, treated as part of the theatre front. The elevation is mainly in four storeys divided one-two-one: above the rusticated arcade of the ground floor projects a continuous lettered canopy, while a prominent cornice surmounts the series of giant pilaster-strips of the first and second floors, the walls of which are channelled; pairs of short pilaster-strips are carried up the third storey to a lesser cornice. A blank-walled protuberance from the third storey, over the upper-circle entrance in Sherwood Street, contains the film projection room. The exterior, in Portland cement, was praised by The Builder as 'modern in that it carries no superfluous detail'. (ref. 121)

The elliptical entrance hall is panelled in walnut. The auditorium, with stalls, dress circle and upper circle, but no gallery, was planned to seat 1200. The square-headed proscenium is framed by a plain architrave and flanked by ornamented pilasters. Messrs. Marc-Henri and Laverdet of Paris designed a colour scheme of eau-de-nil and gold, with stylized landscapes by Japanese craftsmen on the fronts of the boxes and circles.

Nos. 3 and 4 Sherwood Street

This building was erected on the east side of the street in 1905–6 to the design of J. Hatchard Smith; the contractors were J. Greenwood Ltd. It was used for many years as coffee rooms, and since 1930 has been known as Snow's Chop House. It will shortly be demolished in connexion with the rebuilding of the north side of Piccadilly Circus. (ref. 122)

The triple-gabled street front is an evocation of the 'olde London tavern' type in the terms of 1906. It is of four storeys. The ground floor consists entirely of a small-paned, wood-framed, flat strip of windows and doors under a plain fascia with a modest cornice. The first and second storeys, faced with matt-finished light buff terra-cotta, are together canted back at the sides, before swelling out in two curved two-storey bays containing two mullioned-and-transomed windows on each floor. At third-floor level a balcony with green terra-cotta railings runs in front of the three gables, each of which contains a triple window under a label moulding.

Tichborne Street

The general history of Tichborne Street is described on page 66 with that of Glasshouse Street, with which it was incorporated in 1863.

Weeks's Museum and the First London Pavilion Music Hall


In 1797 Sir Henry Tichborne, of Tichborne, Hampshire, baronet, leased to Thomas Weeks, 'perfumer and Machinest', Nos. 3 and 4 Tichborne Street and an adjacent dwelling house in Great Windmill Street. The lease also included 'a large Exhibition or Shew Room as the same had been recently erected and built at the expence of the said Sir Henry Tichborne over the Coachhouses or Standings for Carriages' in the yard of the Black Horse Inn at No. 5 Tichborne Street (ref. 123) (fig. 5).

Figure 5: Weeks's Museum and the first London Pavilion, site plan. Redrawn from a plan in the possession of the London County Council

The exhibition room backed on to Nos. 5–9 Tichborne Street and was supported on 'Story posts'. Access to it from the street was through No. 3 Tichborne Street, while the entrance to the yard was through a covered passage-way under the western part of No. 4 Tichborne Street. (ref. 124)

The lease to Thomas Weeks, at a rental of £210 per annum, was one of several sixty-year leases granted in 1797 by Sir Henry Tichborne of property in Tichborne Street. The lessee of the Black Horse and its yard covenanted to 'keep and preserve from damage or Injury . . . the Story posts Plinths and Foundations supporting the Building or Room erected over the Coachhouse or Standings for Carriages', and to allow both Tichborne and Weeks access to the yard 'to repair or rebuild the same'. (ref. 34)

It is not clear when the exhibition room had been built, for the evidence of the ratebooks can be taken to mean either that it was erected in 1784, when Weeks's name first appears as occupant, accompanied by a substantial increase in the assessment, or (perhaps less probably) in 1797, which would, however, accord more closely with the statement in the lease of that year that the room had been 'recently erected'.

In The Picture of London for 1802 'Weeks Museum' is described as follows: 'This Museum, on the plan of the celebrated Mr. Cox's, (fn. l) when complete, will form an interesting object to the curious. The grand room, which is 107 feet long, and 30 feet high, is covered entirely with blue satin, and contains a variety of figures, which exhibit the effects of mechanism in an astonishing manner. The architecture is by Wyatt; the painting on the ceiling is by Rebecca and Singleton' (ref. 126) (Plate 32a). This is presumably a reference to the artist Biagio Rebecca, who worked with both James and Samuel Wyatt. (ref. 127) 'Singleton' was probably Henry Singleton (1766–1839), a prolific painter of the time. (ref. 128)

In 1802 the museum was not yet entirely ready, for the account already quoted continues 'Previous to its opening, by way of specimen, two temples are exhibited, nearly seven feet high, supported by sixteen elephants, embellished with seventeen hundred pieces of jewellery, in the first style of workmanship'. (ref. 126) These temples were in fact 'two magnificent clocks, engaged for the Emperor of China, at nine thousand pounds'. (ref. 129)

Other attractions included mechanical models of a bird of paradise and a tarantula spider; (ref. 126) the latter was 'formed of steel' and 'darts out by itself from a box . . . and, in fact, performs all the appropriate movements of the insect which it represents'. (ref. 130) The price of admission to view the temples was half-a-crown; 'the Tarantula and the Bird are shown at one shilling each'. (ref. 126)

Writing in 1815, Brayley commented that 'this pleasing exhibition does not meet with its merited notice and success'. (ref. 131) Nevertheless it continued until Weeks's death in or shortly before 1834. The business then passed to his son, Charles, and his son-in-law William Jenkinson, (ref. 132) who appear to have used it for private concerts, balls, picture exhibitions, auctions and parish meetings. (ref. 133)

From 1837 until 1850 (ref. 5) the exhibition room was used by Brameld and Co. as a glass and china warehouse. (ref. 22)

In 1850–1 Henry Robin adapted it for use as 'a Theatre or Room for public diversion'. A raised platform, boxes and a gallery were constructed, and the Office of Metropolitan Buildings required the supports in the yard to be strengthened. The room had seating capacity for about 170 persons and was known as the 'Salle Robin'. (ref. 133)

In 1855 the Tichborne trustees sold the freehold of No. 3 Tichborne Street and the exhibition room to which it gave access, the Black Horse Inn at No. 5 and the yard behind, and other property in the area, to William Williams of Tichborne Street, wine merchant. Four years later the latter leased No. 3 and the 'Salle Robin' to Joseph Kahn of Harley Street, physician. (ref. 34) Dr. Kahn was the proprietor of an anatomical museum which he had exhibited on the Continent as well as in England. In 1851 it had been housed at No. 315 Oxford Street, and more recently at No. 4 Coventry Street. The Lancet had described it as 'a splendid scientific collection'. (ref. 134)

In 1859–60 Emil Loibl and Charles Sonnhammer acquired the lease of the yard and stables of the Black Horse Inn, and after roofing in the open space they opened a place of entertainment there which they named the London Pavilion. (ref. 34) (fn. m) The character of the place was described by the magistrate in a legal action in which Loibl and Sonnhammer were involved at this time: 'The defendants took an old coach-house and stables in Titchbourne-street, painted the walls, covered an intervening court-yard with a glass roof, obtained a license to sell beer by retail on the premises, and converted the whole into a large apartment, or coffee-room, for the sale of refreshments: with a view to enticing customers they added the attractions of a musical performance, a skittle-alley, and a rifle-gallery. . . . Here, the principal object of the defendants' occupation is the sale of refreshments: the music, skittles, and rifles are merely accessories to lead to the consumption of viands and liquors.' There were no galleries, the piano was on the ground floor, and a few singers attended, under engagement, for the amusement of customers. (ref. 136)

The London Pavilion quickly prospered, despite (or perhaps because of) its decrepit buildings (Plate 32b) and unsophisticated origin. An advertisement of 1860 describes the establishment as 'The Finest Rooms in London. Open Every Evening at 7 o'Clock. Operatic Selection from all the favourite Operas. . . . Admission: By Refreshment Ticket, 6d. Six Splendid American Bowling Alleys open daily at 12 o'clock.' (ref. 64) The refreshment ticket entitled the customer to free refreshment in drink or tobacco up to the value of the ticket. (ref. 137) By 1862 a gallery had been built round the north and east sides; the south side was of course overlooked at first-floor level by the windows of Dr. Kahn's museum, (ref. 138) while at ground-floor level the proprietor of the Black Horse Inn at No. 5 Tichborne Street enjoyed a right of light by way of a window looking into the hall. (ref. 137)

It was in these splendidly bibulous surroundings that British Jingoism began its chequered career during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877, when in October G. H. Macdermott first sang G. W. Hunt's 'By Jingo'. (ref. 64)

Meanwhile the fortunes of Dr. Kahn's museum had declined, possibly because the windows of the exhibition room no longer commanded any direct light. In 1862 Dr. Kahn sold his lease to William Beale Marston of Berners Street, gentleman, who also bought the anatomical collection and 'the Goodwill thereof and the Hand Book for the Museum with the work called "Marriage"', all for £1500. Four years later Marston sub-let the museum, (ref. 34) which seems to have finally closed its doors in 1868–9. (ref. 22)

In 1870 Loibl and Sonnhammer bought the freehold of their premises for £8000; four years later they dissolved their partnership, Loibl paying Sonnhammer £10,000 for his half-share. The latter, who now described himself as shell fishmonger of Coventry Street, (ref. 34) established Scott's Restaurant in that street. (ref. 137) By this time the need to rebuild much of the tumble-down property in the area had become urgent, and in November 1876 Loibl bought the freehold of the exhibition rooms and of No. 3 Tichborne Street, thereby increasing the space available for his auditorium and greatly improving access to it. In 1878 he bought out the sitting tenant, a granite merchant who for the previous two years had run 'the Empress Rink' in the exhibition room, (ref. 34) and the way was now clear for the expenditure of a considerable sum of money in either improving or completely rebuilding the existing music hall. Unfortunately, however, the Pavilion stood on land required for the intended new street from Piccadilly to Bloomsbury (fig. 8), and although they had no immediate need of it the Metropolitan Board of Works decided to acquire Loibl's ground before he could rebuild. In September 1878 Loibl was awarded £109,300 as compensation, (ref. 139) and the conveyance to the Board of the London Pavilion, No. 3 Tichborne Street and certain contiguous ancillary property took place in July 1879. (ref. 34)

Legal difficulties postponed the construction of the new street (see Chapter V) and the Board therefore had to find a lessee for the Pavilion. Loibl himself refused to give substantial guarantees for the seemly conduct of this publicly owned establishment and in August 1879 the Board leased it to R. E. Villiers, the proprietor of the Canterbury Music Hall, for £7000 per annum. The agreement contained stringent provisions as to how the entertainments were to be conducted, and the Board had power to appoint an inspector to see that the conditions were obeyed. This duty was entrusted to F. W. Goddard, the Board's chief valuer, who after a few months indicated to Villiers that in return for favourable reports he expected 'something for himself'. Goddard subsequently received £50 per quarter from Villiers during the whole of the latter's tenancy of the old Pavilion building (see page 72). (ref. 140) In 1883 £1500 was spent on rebuilding the staircase and improving access, under the superintendence of George Vulliamy, architect to the Board. (ref. 141)

By the end of 1884 the Metropolitan Board of Works was able to start the construction of the new street. The corrupt means whereby Villiers obtained the lease of the triangular site bounded by Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Circus and Great Windmill Street, upon which the new London Pavilion was erected, is described on page 72. The last performance in the old hall took place on 25 March 1885. (ref. 142) The new London Pavilion erected in that year is described on page 81.


a In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the street leading out of Coventry Street was often referred to as Arundel(l) Street, (ref. 12) but the square at the north end continued to be known as Panton Square. (ref. 13)
b Ham Yard owes its name to a public house, the Ham, which was certainly in existence in 1739, and very probably earlier. In the middle of the eighteenth century this house was evidently amalgamated with another inn, the Windmill, in Great Windmill Street, and in 1756 it was known as the Windmill and Ham. It was subsequently known as either the Windmill, or the Ham and Windmill, until 1892, when the name was changed to the Lyric Tavern. This public house still exists, and stands on the south corner of Ham Yard and Great Windmill Street. (ref. 29)
c His programme included 'a Display of the wandering Sounds, after the Manner, by which, in the Year Anno Domini, 1264, Pope Celestinus and Pope Boniface caused great Tumults, the former being frightened out of his Popedom by the latter's extraordinary Powers of Ventriloquy.' (ref. 54)
d During its brief career as a music hall the Trocadero was variously known as the 'Trocadero Palace', 'Royal Trocadero Palace of Varieties' and 'Royal Trocadero Music Hall'. (ref. 64) In 1884 it was called 'The Royal Trocadero and Eden theatre'. (ref. 73)
e Mr. Robert Donaldson and Dr. Bryn Thomas have drawn attention to a draft plan in Dr. Hunter's hand, which evidently relates to this project. In this version no provision appears to have been made for a house. (ref. 80)
f The statement that in 1766 Mylne erected a house in Lichfield Street for Dr. Hunter (ref. 86) is incorrect. It is evidently based on the entry in Mylne's diary for 29 May 1766 'Surveyed Dr. Hunter's house in Litchfield Street'. (ref. 87) The ratebooks for the parish of St. Anne, Soho, show very clearly, however, that Dr. Hunter occupied a house in Lichfield Street from 1763 to 1767, and that no rebuilding took place. It is in any case unlikely that Hunter would have rebuilt a house which he was on the point of vacating, and the survey to which Mylne refers in his diary was evidently a valuation prior to the sale of the house.
g Dr. Hunter's first intention was to limit this term to twenty years, but by a codicil executed a few months before his death he extended it to thirty years.
h Matthew Baillie's sister, Joanna Baillie, the dramatist and poetess, lived with him in Great Windmill Street until his marriage in 1791. (ref. 94)
i The ratebooks continue to give Wilson as the occupant until 1815.
j The specimens referred to here were presumably those acquired after Dr. Hunter's death, and were therefore not removed to Glasgow in 1807.
k Apart from the period from 4 to 16 September 1939 when all London theatres were compulsorily closed. (ref. 105)
l From 1772 to 1775 James Cox, 'Mechanician, Silversmith and Watchmaker', had exhibited his collection of elaborate and expensive toys and contrivances at the Great Room in Spring Gardens. (ref. 125)
m The Builder gives the date of opening as 23 June 1859, (ref. 135) but it may well not have been until a few months later in the year.


1. Robert Steele, Tudor and Stuart Proclamations 1485–1714, 1910, vol. I, no. 3549.
2. P.R.O., C66/3124, no. 7; Wren Society, vol. XVIII, 1941, pp. 14–15.
3. Wren Society, vol. XVIII, 1941, pp. 24–5.
4. John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720, vol. II, bk. VI, p. 84.
5. R.B.
6. Recollections of the Life of John O'Keeffe written by himself, 1826, vol. I, pp. 79–80.
7. P.R.O., SP44/138, passim.
8. R.B.; L.C.C. Members' Library, file 442.
9. L.C.C. Members' Library, file 1257.
10. G.E.C.
11. Deeds of J. Lyons and Co.
14. 3 and 4 Geo. V, c. 72, local and private.
15. Kingsford, p. 57.
16. The Builder, 9 July 1904, p. 38.
17. Percy J. Edwards, History of London Street Improvements, 1855–1897, 1898, p. 61.
18. Kingsford, p. 85.
19. J. T. Smith, An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London, 1846, vol. I, p. 113.
20. N. Whittock, On the Construction and Decoration of the Shop Fronts of London, 1840, p. 6, plate ; Colvin.
21. B.A. 29568; The Builder, 8 June 1923, pp. 934–5 and plates.
22. P.O.D.
23. M.L.R. 1874/14/876.
24. W.P.L., plans 424–6; inscription on building.
25. The Building News, 17 March 1893, p. 390; 12 May 1893, pp. 635–6.
26. P.C.C., 84 Drury.
27. P.R.O., MR325.
28. Ibid., E317/Middlesex 73.
30. P.R.O., C10/255/69.
31. Ibid., C10/205/113.
32. Kingsford, p. 99.
33. Ibid., loc. cit.; P.R.O., C10/457/52.
34. L.C.C. Legal and Parliamentary Dept. deeds.
35. R.B.; William Chaffers, Gilda Aurifabrorum, N.D., pp. 85, 176.
29. M.C.R.O., LV(W) passim.
36. In L.C.C. collection.
37. The Builder, 26 Aug. 1854, p. 455.
38. Ibid., 22 Sept. 1855, p. 456.
39. Church Commissioners, file 23913.
40. The Builder, 7 July 1860, p. 440.
41. The Illustrated London News, 20 July 1861, p. 58.
42. The Builder, 17 Aug. 1861, pp. 560–1.
43. St. Peters, Great Windmill Street, Parish Magazine, Jan. 1908, p. 9.
44. Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Vestry . . . of St. James, 1885, pp. 83–4.
45. Ibid., loc. cit.; The Illustrated London News, loc. cit.
46. St. John's Church, Broad Court, Drury Lane, Parish Magazine, 1909, pp. 163–5.
47. Philip Magnus, Gladstone, A Biography, 1954, p. 106.
48. The Times, 19 April 1954.
49. Church Commissioners, file 78983X.
50. The Illustrated London News, 20 July 1861, pp. 50, 58.
51. T. F. Bumpus, London Churches Ancient and Modern, N.D., vol. II, p. 326; The Builder, 17 Aug. 1861, p. 560.
52. N.B.R., 7 photographs of the church taken during demolition in 1954.
53. Harold Scott, The Early Doors, Origins of the Music Hall, 1946, p. 163.
54. W.P.L., playbill in D134(11).
55. P.R.O., LC7/11, f. 34.
56. W.P.L., playbills in D134(3–5).
57. Ibid., D134 and box 47, no. 5.
58. P.R.O., Lord Chamberlain's MS. index of theatrical references, vol. II, f. 210.
59. Enthoven Theatre Collection, playbill of Feb. 1834.
60. W.P.L., playbills in D134 (2, 3, 6–8).
61. P.R.O., LC1/18, nos. 1471–3, 1481; LC1/45, f. 91.
62. Ibid., LC1/18, no. 1510; LC1/45, f. 107.
63. W.P.L., playbills in D134 (7–9).
64. Enthoven Theatre Collection.
65. London Museum, a souvenir silk handkerchief (61.112) bought at the Great Exhibition of 1851 mentions the Argyll Rooms in Great Windmill Street by name.
66. W.P.L., water-colour D137; The Building News, 15 Nov. 1889, engraving, pp. 666–7.
67. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 1862, vol. IV, p. 218.
68. H. G. Hibbert, A Playgoer's Memories, 1920, pp. 250–1.
69. H. G. Hibbert, Fifty Years of a Londoner's Life, 1916, p. 123; Charles Douglas Stuart and A. J. Park, The Variety Stage, 1895, pp. 195–196.
70. Hibbert, Fifty Years, etc., p. 123.
71. Scott, loc. cit.; Hibbert, A Playgoer's Memories, loc. cit.
72. Stuart and Park, loc. cit.
74. C.E.O., file 15110; L.C.C. Architect's Dept., Theatre Section records.
75. R.B.; D.N.B.
76. George C. Peachey, A Memoir of William and John Hunter, 1924, pp. 59, 75, 85.
77. Ibid., pp. 46–7, 51–2.
78. Survey of London, vol. XXX, 1960, p. 547.
79. Two Introductory Lectures, Delivered by Dr. William Hunter . . . to which are added some Papers relating to Dr. Hunter's intended Plan, for establishing a Museum in London, 1784, pp. 117–21.
81. Two Introductory Lectures etc., pp. 122–30.
82. Samuel Foart Simmons, An Account of the Life and Writings of the late William Hunter, 1783, p. 57.
83. John Thomson, An Account of the Life, Lectures and Writings of William Cullen, M.D., 1859, vol. I, p. 151.
84. Peachey, op. cit., p. 121.
85. Sir Albert Richardson's volume of plans and elevations by Robert Mylne, item 182; information supplied by Miss J. Dobson, Royal College of Surgeons.
88. Water-colour drawing in L.C.C. collection.
89. Peachey, op. cit., p. 122.
90. Thomson, op. cit., vol. I, p. 555.
91. Peachey, op. cit., pp. 123–4.
92. William Wadd, Mems. Maxims and Memoirs, 1827, p. 189.
93. P.C.C., 180 Cornwallis.
95. R. Hingston Fox, William Hunter, 1901, p. 11.
96. Letters of Sir Charles Bell, 1870, p. 196.
97. Peachey, op. cit., p. 124; Thomson, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 739–42.
98. M.B.W. Minutes, 28 Oct. 1887, p. 648.
99. E. O. Sachs, Modern Opera Houses and Theatres, 1897, vol. II, two unnumbered plates show changes actually made.
100. L.C.C. Theatres and Music Halls Committee Minutes, 26 Jan. 1910.
101. L.C.C. Architect's Dept., Theatre Section records.
102. Vivian Van Damm, To-Night and Every Night, 1952, pp. 70–2.
103. Ibid., pp. 69, 71, 80–1.
104. The Times, 4 Feb. 1932.
106. Van Damm, op. cit., pp. 190–2.
107. The Evening News, 2 5 Nov. 1959.
108. The Evening Standard, 7 March 1961.
109. Endowed Charities (County of London), 1903, vol. V, pp. 180–1; St. John's, Broad Court, Drury Lane, Parish Magazine, 1909, pp. 163–5.
110. Endowed Charities, etc., loc. cit.; Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Vestry . . . of St. James, 1885, p. 84.
111. Inscribed stone on building.
112. Photograph in L.C.C. collection; W.P.L., box 47, no. 4.
113. L.C.C. Minutes, 18 May 1897, p. 543; P.O.D.; inscribed stone on building.
114. W.P.L., D1835A.
115. The Builder, 1 Nov. 1912, p. 507 and plate.
116. R.B.; D.N.B.; M.B.W. Minutes, 25 July 1862, p. 581; 3 Oct. 1862, p. 729.
117. R.B.; P.O.D.; The Pictorial Handbook of London, N.D. (c. 1853), p. 522.
118. The Builder, 4 May 1928, p. 780; Enthoven Theatre Collection.
119. Mander and Mitchenson, op. cit., p. 135.
120. Ibid., loc. cit.; Enthoven Theatre Collection.
121. The Builder, 4 May 1928, p. 780.
122. W.C.C. Minutes, 21 Dec. 1905, p. 1330; L.C.C. Minutes, 8 May 1906, pp. 1196–7; P.O.D.
123. M.L.R. 1797/4/680.
124. Ibid., 1855/12/896, plan.
126. The Picture of London for 1802, pp. 188–9.
127. Survey of London, vol. XXIX, 1960, p. 148; Colvin.
128. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, ed. G. C. Williamson, 1905, vol. V, pp. 86–7.
129. Leigh's New Picture of London, 1818 ed., p. 385.
130. Kidd's New Guide to the Lions of London, c. 1832, p. 44.
131. Rev. Joseph Nightingale, London and Middlesex, 1815, vol. III, part II, p. 657.
132. P.C.C., 380 Teignmouth.
133. M.B.O., vol. 76, Cases of Special Supervision, pp. 142–63.
134. Joseph Kahn, The Heteradelph, N.D.; Catalogue of Dr. Kahn's Anatomical Museum, 1851 (copy in B.M. pressmark 7306 ccc 3(9)).
136. Ibid., 28 Jan. 1860, pp. 62–3.
137. H. G. Hibbert, Fifty Years of a Londoner's Life, 1916, pp. 40–1.
138. Ibid., loc. cit.; Enthoven Theatre Collection, programme of 4 July 1862 which mentions the gallery.
139. Interim Report of the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Working of the Metropolitan Board of Works, 1888, p. 6.
140. Ibid., pp. 6, 120.
141. The Builder, 11 Aug. 1883, p. 199.
142. The London Pavilion, 1900 (copy in L.C.C. Architect's Dept., Historic Buildings Section file).
12. M.L.R. 1731/1/280.
13. O.S. 1870 ed.
73. Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection, 5 Venner Road, S.E.26.
80. Glasgow University, Hunterian Library, Hunter-Douglas papers, bundle 26.8.
86. Rev. Robert Scott Mylne, The Master Masons to the Crown of Scotland, 1893, p. 269.
87. Mylne MS. diaries in the possession of Miss J. M. H. Mylne of Great Amwell, Herts.
94. D.N.B.
105. Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, The Theatres of London, 1961, p. 210.
125. Survey of London, vol. XX, 1940, p. 67.
135. The Builder, 3 Jan. 1903, p. 12.