Site of Nos. 25-34, Cockspur Street


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G. H. Gater and E. P. Wheeler (editors)

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'Site of Nos. 25-34, Cockspur Street', Survey of London: volume 16: St Martin-in-the-Fields I: Charing Cross (1935), pp. 146-149. URL: Date accessed: 18 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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That part of the tenement leased by Henry VIII to Thomas Swallow (see p. 122) which lay to the west of the site of the entrance to Spring Gardens from Cockspur Street, seems wholly or in part to have been identical with that leased by Robert King in 1595 to John Banfield. This is described in a deed of 1605 (fn. 1) as containing eight messuages, in the tenure of John Banfield, Widow Jones, John Doby, Henry Nicholls, Hugh Barbone, Hugh Morrys, Gregory White and Gregory Westcott. Most of these names can be identified in the ratebooks, and their position makes it practically certain that the ground lay west of the Spring Gardens entrance. When Banfield had received an earlier lease in 1579 the premises consisted of only one messuage with a yard, garden and barn, and certain stables, and in the interval he had "bestowed in buildings upon the said demised premisses at least Fower hundred marckes" and had made "diverse severall dwelling howses thereupon." (fn. 2) The sales of the freehold to George and Thomas Cole (1618) and William Gamble alias "Bowyeare" (1621) both mention Banfield's lease, which was due to expire in 1635. Of the history of the property during the remainder of the seventeenth century nothing is known.

In 1703 William Bowyer sold (fn. 3) to Thomas Pearce a portion of his freehold, and from later deeds it is possible to delimit the Pearce property accurately. It extended in length from the corner of Spring Gardens westward as far as (and including) the later No. 25, Cockspur Street, on the further side of the Red Lion Gateway, and in depth to the north side of Red Lion Yard (fn. 4) continued through to Spring Gardens. It thus included at the east end a strip about 7 feet wide from north to south, which was afterwards (in 1825) purchased by the Crown and included in Nos. 10, 12 and 14, Spring Gardens, on the site of Wigley's Exhibition Rooms.

Pearce let the greater portion of the property on building leases, the houses on the sites of Nos. 30–32, Cockspur Street, only not being rebuilt. (fn. 5) The house on the site of No. 32 was the residence of two well-known booksellers. Thomas Chapman appears in 1686 at a house corresponding more or less with No. 31, (fn. 6) moving in 1691 to No. 32. (fn. 7) From the titles of the books published by him it appears that these houses were respectively known as "The Chirurgeons Armes" and The Golden Key. (fn. 8) No. 32 is marked "Empty" in the 1698 ratebook, and in the following year Luke Stokoe (given as "Stoke," afterwards "Stokey") appears and continues until 1725. His address was The Golden Key and Bible at Charing Cross or The Golden Key against the Mews Gate. (fn. 9)

The most important building on the property in early times was The Red Lion inn. (fn. 10) Before about 1710 the entrance to the inn was from Spring Gardens. (fn. 11) For many years previously the names of the occupants of the inn appear (for relatively high assessments) as the last (or first) of the entries for Cockspur Street. In the book for 1709 there is a note "in building" against the name of Griffith Davis (fn. 12) (the then occupier of the inn), and thereafter his name is shifted to the other side of the newly constructed entrance from Cockspur Street into Red Lion Yard. The fact is obviously to be connected with two leases granted by Pearce to Davis about this time. The first, (fn. 13) of which the date has not been ascertained, was of the innhouse and stableyard, coach-houses, etc., called The Red Lion inn and "all that Peice … of Ground containing in front towards Spring Garden Twenty two foot and in Depth towards the … Stable Yard Forty two Foot … Except Four Foot out of the said twenty two Foot of Ground Left for a passage next the French Church." The inn itself was apparently in the interior of the yard, and the piece of ground, with frontage on Spring Gardens, was used for the erection of a house which blocked the old entrance into the yard (fn. 14) and made a new entrance necessary. This was provided by the second lease, (fn. 15) dated 6th March, 1709–10, of "all that Peice … of Ground… abutting North on the Great Street Leading from Charing Cross to Saint James, South on the Stable Yard belonging to the Red Lyon Inn, West on the Messuage … of Mr. Samuel Awbery, East on a Messuage… then Lately built by William Baldwin, which said… Ground contained in front … twenty two foot … and in depth twenty Nine feet towards the East, and thirty one feet towards the West and South … together with the Messuage … and Gateway." The "messuage" is now represented by No. 25, Cockspur Street, and the gateway was between that house and No. 26. The inn (at any rate the later inn (fn. 16) lay behind the house.

British Coffee House—Design by Robt. Adam

Figure 27: British Coffee House—Design by Robt. Adam

No. 27, Cockspur Street, was the British Coffee House. The lease (fn. 17) of the ground with "the messuage … thereupon in building" was granted by Pearce on 18th July, 1709, and the house appears for the first time in the ratebook for 1710 as in the occupation of "Widow Phenick." It apparently at once obtained the name by which it was afterwards famous. (fn. 18) Mrs. Fenwick (or Moreau (fn. 19) ) died in 1728, (fn. 20) and was succeeded by George Forrest (1729–34), Archibald, Isabella and Jane Douglas (1735–55), Robert Anderson (1756–72) and Helen Anderson (1773–77). The last mentioned is said to have been a sister of John Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, and is described by Mackenzie as "a woman of uncommon talents and the most agreeable conversation." In 1770 the premises were rebuilt (fn. 21) from the designs of Robert Adam, and stood without alteration (save for the disappearance of the ornamental urns and carvings on the friezes above them) for over a hundred years. Adam's design is reproduced on the opposite page. (fn. 22) The house was a great resort of Scotsmen, and many anecdotes are connected therewith. (fn. 23) It was considerably extended in 1817 by the addition of premises in the rear running along the north side of Red Lion Yard. At a later date it was known, with the adjacent No. 26, Cockspur Street, as The British Hotel. It was demolished in 1886–7.


1 Indenture, dated 9th February, 1604–5, between William King and William Joyce. (P.R.O., C. 54/1799.)
2 See petition by "John Bonfeild, one of yor Maties Lyeter men." (19th June, 1601, P.R.O., Court of Requests, 2/112/33.)
3 Final concord between Thomas Pearce quer: and William Bowyer esq. deforc: concerning 11 messuages and half an acre of land in St. Martin's. The consideration was £1,300. (Trinity, 2 Anne.)
4 Red Lion Yard was Crown property, partly lying south of the site of the old wall of St. James's Park, and partly taking in so much of the ground without the wall as anciently belonged to the verge or freeboard of the park.
5 No records have been found of leases of those houses at that time, and the ratebooks show that they were at that period in continuous occupation.
6 Not entirely, for there are indications that Nos. 30 and 31 were rebuilt in the closing years of the seventeenth century on the site of three previous houses.
7 The ratebooks show that one of his predecessors at the house was Miles Mitchell (1666–80). In Boyne's Tokens issued in the Seventeenth Century is a reference to one of "Miles Michell at [the Cooks' Arms] Charing Cros, Mealman."
8 See Plomer's Dictionary of Booksellers and Printers, 1668–1725. Chapman published in 1687 Spencer Redivivus, a modernisation of Book I of The Faerie Queen.
9 Ibid. In 1703 Luke Stokoe published a small volume of verse called Poems on Several Occasions, Together with some Odes in Imitation of Mr. Cowley's Stile and Manner, and in 1725 he took subscriptions for Francis Mason's Vindication of the Church of England.
10 In 1668 the post-house was removed from The Swan "to ye Red Lyon att Charing Crosse agt ye mewese gate" (P.R.O., S.P. 29/234/137). The printed calendar (Cal. of S. P. Dom., 1667–8, p. 224), wrongly transcribes "mewese" as "newest." In 1672 an order was issued for "the red Lyon and the Whitehart Innes neere Chareing Crosse and the White hart In in Long Acre to be the Quarters of One Dragooner of every troope of the twelve Troopes of Dragoones in the Regiment of Our most deare and most intirely beloved Cousin Prince Rupert." (P.R.O., W.O., 26/1, p. 308.)
11 It is shown thus on Morden and Lea's map of 1682, and the fact is in accord with several notices that are extant; e.g. (i) "Mending the spring Garden gate coming out of the wood to the red Lyon" (June, 1660, P.R.O., Works, 5/1); (ii) "Paving the way between the red Lion and the gate goeing into ye Park" (January, 1664–5, ibid., 5/5); (iii) "makeing a paire of great gates of whole Deale lined on ye Backe Sides with Whole Deale x fot halfe high, xi fot halfe wide, to be putt up at ye upper end of ye old Spring Garden by ye Redd Lyon Inn" (March, 1677–8, ibid., 5/29); (iv) "for 2 paire of hinges with rivites for ye new gates which are to be putt up by the Red Lyon Inn goeing into the ould Spring garden" (March, 1677–8, ibid., 5/30).
12 Griffith Davis first appears in respect of The Red Lion in the 1697 ratebook. Previous occupiers had been Cuthbert Reddall (1646–55), John Martin (1656–65), Edward Danker (1666–71), Thomas Browne (1672–77), and Francis Suckling (1678–96). The Hearth Tax Rolls for 1666 and 1674 show Edward "Bankes" and "Mr. Browne" assessed at 17 and 19 hearths respectively. In 1673 a warrant was issued for the demand of all rents and arrears "due to William Urlin at the time of his being attainted of felony, at which time he stood possessed of the Red Lyon Inn, near Charing Cross" (Cal. of Treasury Books, 1672–5, p. 450). Either Urlin held a lease of the property from Bowyer and did not actually occupy the inn, or less probably there was another Red Lion in the vicinity, for he does not appear in the list of occupiers.
13 Particulars taken from indenture, dated 17th October, 1740, between Jane Griffith and Griffith Chippin and Charles Simes. (Middx. Register, 1740, III, 438.)
14 The remark in Strype's edition of Stow's Survey that the "Red Lion Inn hath an open Passage for Coaches into Spring Garden" (Book VI, p. 77) was at that time (1720) no longer true to fact.
15 Particulars taken from indenture, dated 2nd October, 1750, between (1) John Tetlow and John Wright, (2) Charles Simes and (3) William Greening. (Middx. Register, 1750, II, 488.)
16 Referred to in the sale by the trustees of a later Pearce as "all that other freehold Messuage … or Inn, commonly called … the Red Lion, with the Tap Room and other Buildings thereto adjoining and belonging … on the West side of the said Red Lion Yard … and … contains in front from North to South about thirty seven feet and six inches and in depth at mean about twenty feet and nine inches." (Indenture, dated 10th May, 1796, between William Heberden and others and David Hatton Morley.—Middx. Register, 1796, III, 243.)
17 See indenture, dated 20th February, 1720–21, between (1) William Moreau and Sarah his wife, (2) Gamaliel Webb, and (3) Alexander Burne. (Ibid., 1722, III, 247.)
18 There is a letter, dated 5th October, 1717, from James Murray to John Menzies "at the British Coffee house near Charing Cross." (Hist. MSS. Commn., Cal. of Stuart Papers belonging to H.M. the King, V, p. 157.)
19 "Sarah Fenwicke, otherwise Moreau, ye late wife of William Moreau." (Middx. Register, 1733, II, 6.)
20 "On Wednesday Night last the Corpse of the famous Mrs. Anne (sic) Fenwick, Mistress of the British Coffee-house, near Charing Cross, was interr'd at St. Martin's in the Fields. The Body was dress'd in a Suit of richly laced Linnen; on one of her Fingers a new Gold Ring, with a remarkable Poesy engrav'd thereon, and a Parcel of Letters which she had received from her Son, placed under one of her Arms; All in Pursuance of her last Will and Testament." (The Daily Post, 6th July, 1728.)
21 On 20th September, 1771, Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, who had inherited the freehold from his father Thomas, granted a 30 years' lease to the Rev. John Douglas of "all that Messuage… on the South side of Cockspur Street … then in the Tenure … of Helen Anderson" (Middx. Register, 1777, V, 253). The lease was on 1st July, 1777, sold to David Morley, "coffeeman."
22 Plans of the house are given in The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam Vol. II.
23 See account in MacMichael's Charing Cross, pp. 35 ff.