Site of the Hermitage of St. Katherine


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

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'Site of the Hermitage of St. Katherine', Survey of London: volume 16: St Martin-in-the-Fields I: Charing Cross (1935), pp. 225-231. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Contemporary references to the Hermitage of St. Katherine, Charing, are few. The earliest which has been found is dated 7th July, 1253, when an order was issued (fn. 1) to Edward of Westminster and Philip "Luvel" to provide the king with a suitable chaplain to celebrate divine service in "reclusagio de la Charring'." On 2nd September, 1256, Edward was instructed (fn. 2) to cause the place above the altar in the chapel of the Hermitage of "Charring" to be ceiled, and a cross with crucifix and images of the Virgin and St. John, a foot and a half high, to be bought and placed "ante summum altere" there. On 8th February, 1262–3, the Bishop of Llandaff obtained (fn. 3) the privilege of being lodged "in the close of the king's hermitage of La Charryng" on all his visits to London, without any impediment by the king's marshalls. Five years later (3rd February, 1267–8) a grant for life was made (fn. 4) to Simon de Brageham, chaplain, "of the free chapel of the hermitage of la Cherring, void by the death of Richard de la March, chaplain, last ministrant therein." In the first year of Edward I (1272–3) a sum was allowed (fn. 5) to two chaplains of the king for performing divine service for the soul of Henry III "in the hermitage of the Charing," for their stipends "in like manner as they have been accustomed to receive the like stipends" in the time of Henry.

The hermit of Charing was probably one of the three hermits (and eight anchorites) within the city of London and suburbs, who in 1370–1 received 13s. 4d. each from the king, (fn. 6) and was one of the three who benefited by the will of Hugh Peyntour in 1368. (fn. 7) Reference has been made (see pp. 159–60) to the fact that the hermitage, then included in "Scotland," was at the close of the fourteenth century part of the property of John "Boterwyk," and afterwards came into the possession of David Selly and Lionel Crawford. The latter ("lyonell' Crayford, Esquyer"), according to John Drakes, "late Heremyte of the house of Seynt Kateryn next unto our lady of Rounsevall," had in the closing years of the fifteenth century "the gyft of the said heremytage." Drakes complained (fn. 8) that Lionel had promised "to make hym assured of the said house and heremytage by his lettrez under his seal." Relying on this, Drakes, "aswell by borowyng money of his frendes as through the help and almoise of many devout and well disposed people to hym geven, made a chaleys of sylver … price xls." Lionel, however, not only put Drakes out of the hermitage, but endeavoured to obtain possession of the chalice.

Two other notices concerning the hermit at Charing Cross in the second half of the fifteenth century are preserved in the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Margaret Westminster: (i) "6–7 Edward IV—Item Rec' die sepultur' heremitis apud Charyng' pro iiij Tap'r—viijd"; (ii) "1497–8 Item to the Ermyte for watchinge and making clene of the Church—iijd."

In 1500 William Dyckson left (fn. 9) 12d. "to the Reperacion of saint Kateryns Armytage" and in 1524 the will of "… ler, Esq." provided (fn. 10) for the payment of 6s. 8d. to the chapel of St. Katherine's, Charing Cross, and of 20s. to Sir Ric. Alford "prest armett there." How much longer the hermitage lasted it is impossible to say, (fn. 11) but in 1536 a note was taken (fn. 12) for search to be made in the Rolls of Westminster Abbey "for the 'tenour' of the Hermitage of Charinge, as to who did receive rents or dues for the said hermitage."

The general position of the hermitage is quite certain. The plan of 1610 reproduced in Plate 110 shows "The Armitage" as an open space occupying roughly the site of Craig's Court, but how much of the property between this open space and the street belonged to the hermitage is not clear. Only the northermost house of the six shown in the plan can be traced as being in the King's hands in the reign of Henry VIII, (fn. 13) and as definitely connected with the open space beyond. In what follows all six houses have been treated as occupying the original site.

On 6th April, 1544, Henry VIII granted (fn. 14) to Luke Hornebolte, the King's painter, and Margaret his wife, for life, a tenement lately built by the King, the southern side of which looked towards the late Hermitage of St. Katherine and the northern side towards the house of John Wylton, while the western side adjoined the high road leading from "Charyng Crosse" to the Palace at Westminster. Included in the grant was a toft, vacant place or garden lying on the east side of the tenement and the late hermitage, which on the east, west and south sides "fossata semita que ducit, de Charyng crosse vallatur," while the north side adjoined the orchard or garden of John Wylton. The "tenement" was the northernmost of the six shown in the 1610 plan, and the "toft," etc., was the open space there named "The Armitage." Hornebolte died a month later, (fn. 15) and the tenement, with probably the open space (which is never again mentioned), was successively granted to Peter Nicholson, the queen's glazier, on 11th March, 1561–2, (fn. 16) and Philip Strelley on 4th March, 1570 (a reversionary lease as from Lady Day, 1583). Strelley on the day following conveyed his interest to Edward Fetiplace, who on 30th November, 1574, transferred it to William, Lord Sandys. (fn. 17) A lease was granted in June, 1589, to Walter Sandys, William Lord Sandys and Walter's son William for the term of their three lives.

Sandys of the Vyne

Lord Sandys is first shown at the house in the ratebook for 1599 and continues until 1603. (fn. 18) On 12th January, 1613–4, the Crown sold (fn. 19) the premises to Robert Lee and Edward Sawyer, to hold in free and common socage at an annual rent of 60s., and on the following day Lee and Sawyer transferred their interest to Sir William Waad. (fn. 20)

Waad was already resident a few doors away on the south side. The first reference to this house which has been found is in the will, dated 27th July, 1593, of John Colbrand, (fn. 21) who devised to John Mathewe two messuages "the one of wch … James Bleare now holdeth and the other in the holdinge … of John Sex, Blacksmith." John "Seaxe" is shown in the ratebooks in respect of the latter house from the earliest book (1577) to 1591, (fn. 22) and in 1602 "William Wade" appears in his place. It can hardly be doubted, however, that Waad's residence there began before this. (fn. 23) He had obviously purchased the house from Mathewe, though no record of the transaction has been found. On his death in 1623 he left (fn. 24) to his widow "all the houshold stuffe, hangings, plate and other things in my howse at Charing Crosse." The house was subsequently in the occupation of Richard Washington, (fn. 25) Ralph Hall (fn. 26) and Edward Finney.


On 9th December, 1674, William Waad (grandson of Sir William) sold (fn. 27) to Joseph "Cragg" three messuages "one of which … is now in the tenure … of Edward Fynny … and was heretofore called … the hermitage & is now called … the Garter, one other … late was in the tenure … of George Blake & now is in the tenure … of Samuell Fisher and is commonly called … the harpe and Ball, (fn. 28) and thother … late was in the tenure … of Robert Clarke … and now is in the tenure … of William Bennett, and was late called … the great James or Shipp, and is now called … the Kingshead." The second and third of these seem to have been the two portions of the house formerly granted to Luke Hornebolte (see above), corresponding to the later No. 21, Charing Cross, (fn. 29) now No. 25, Whitehall.

Although the open space in the rear is not mentioned, there can be no doubt that it formed a part of the premises included in the last-mentioned property. On this Joseph Craig, about 1695, formed Craig's Court. He was also in possession (see p. 242) of the house immediately north of the Hornebolte house, and each of the two houses was shorn of about 6 feet frontage to allow of the formation of the entrance to the court. Though the greater part of the court itself is on the site of the "toft, vacant place or garden" lying behind Hornebolte's house, and named on the plan of 1610 "The Armitage," it will be remembered (see pp. 218–9) that the southern side of the court was originally a portion of Scotland Yard.

The other house (The Garter), later No. 25, Charing Cross (No. 33, Whitehall), was in 1861 still in the possession of Craig's successor, the Earl-of Harrington, who in that year leased (fn. 30) to John Jarvis "all that Messuage … situate and being Number 25 on the East side of and fronting the High Street near Charing Cross … called … The Silver Cross."

The remaining houses can be dealt with briefly.

The southernmost of the six was the house of Bleare, included in the demise by John Colbrand to John Mathewe in 1593. In 1604 Mathewe sold (fn. 31) to Sir William Waad a house, of which no description was given, but which was evidently Bleare's house. James Bleare is first shown in respect of this house in the ratebook for 1583, and his name appears at intervals until 1599, when his place is taken by his widow until 1607. The ratebooks show that the house was occupied by John Champion in 1655, in which year it formed one of several mortgaged (fn. 32) by James Waad (son of Sir William) and was therefore still in his possession. In 1708, however, it was represented by two houses (shown by the ratebooks as in the occupation of Giles Bignall and Thos. Woolley) belonging to Henry Lovelace. (fn. 33)

The history of the property, which probably corresponded to Nos. 27–8, Charing Cross (now Nos. 37 and 39, Whitehall), has not been further traced.

The next house (adjoining Waad's residence) is in the ratebooks from 1578 to 1587 shown as in the occupation of Peter Subbes, who in 1591 sold it to Adolf Staedt, (fn. 34) "Marchaunt and free denizen of England." In 1597 "Stacode alias Staedt" transferred (fn. 35) the property to Patrick Derrick, sadler, who nine years later sold (fn. 36) it to Sir William Waad under the description of "all that messuage … scituate … neare unto Charinge Crosse … heretofore called … by … the Signe of the Blasinge Starr, and nowe or of late in the tenure … of one master Richard Greene," (fn. 37) who held a lease dated 6th January, 1603–4. The ratebooks show "Mr (afterwards Sir) Richard Greene" at the house from 1605 to 1637, and his widow ("Lady Susan Greene") to 1644. (fn. 38) The house was then occupied by Sir Poyns Moore from 1645 to 1648, after which John Hill (afterwards given as "Mr Hill") was there from 1648 to 1657. In the mortgage by Waad to Eltonhed in 1655 "Thomas Hill" is mentioned. The house was, therefore, probably still in Waad's possession. When Robert Blackburne was forced to give up his "dwelling house near Scotland Yard" for the accommodation of Cromwell's life-guard in 1657 (see p. 215) he took "a lease of one near, for which [he] paid to—Hill 350l," and laid out £30 in repairs. A mortgagee, however, obtained possession of the house and would allow Blackburne only to stay "till next term." (fn. 39) The ratebooks show "Mr Robert Blackburne" as succeeding "Mr Hill" for the years 1658 to 1660, when his place was taken by Sir Philip Howard from 1661 to 1664. No record of the sale of the house by Waad has been found, but in 1754 the property (then two houses) was in the possession of Benjamin Coles, who sold it to his brother John, (fn. 40) and in 1763 the latter's son, Samuel, disposed of it to Thomas Bovingdon. (fn. 41) One of the two messuages is described as "formerly known by the Sign of the Crown and Thistle." The site was that of what was afterwards known as No. 26, Charing Cross (now No. 35, Whitehall).

Only two houses remain, those between Waad's residence and the house of Hornebolte. No early history of these has been traced. (fn. 42) In 1690 the houses (then already three) were in the possession of William Church, (fn. 43) whose widow in 1703 sold them to William Strode. (fn. 44) Strode left his property to his wife Sybilla and his daughters, Anne and Grace. (fn. 45) The latter married George Sampson, and her devisees in 1789 sold the three messuages to Joseph Mills, (fn. 46) whose widow assigned them in trust (fn. 47) for the marriage of her daughter Mary Mills to Watson Seymour. The premises are described as Nos. 22, 23 and 24, Charing Cross (now Nos. 27, 29 and 31, Whitehall).


1 Cal. of Close Rolls, 1251–3, p. 386.
2 Ibid., 1254–6, p. 444. This is indexed under Charing, in Kent.
3 Cal. of Pat. Rolls, 1258–66, pp. 246–7.
4 Ibid., 1266–72, p. 187.
5 Devon's Issues of the Exchequer, p. 82.
6 Devon's Issue Roll of Thomas de Brantingham, p. 395.
7 "The hermit in the meadows beyond the Thames, the hermit near Charryngecrouche, and the hermit near Bisshopisgate." (Cal. of Wills, Court of Husting, London, II, p. 107.)
8 P.R.O., C. 1/22/198.
9 P.C.C. 29 Blamyr.
10 Cal. of L. & P. Henry VIII, IV, No. 248.
11 "Since the Erection of this Cross, an Hermitage, with a Chapel of St. Catharine, seems to have been erected between the same and the Hospital of Rouncival [the position is not quite accurate, and the Hermitage was there before the Cross]; but when, or by whom it was built, is no better known than the Time of its Dissolution." (Maitland's History of London, p. 737.)
12 Cal. of Westmr. Abbey Deeds (3204).
13 It is strange that no reference to the five others has been found in the Ministers' Accounts. It seems incomprehensible that Henry VIII, who made a point of securing all the property on both sides of the road, should have omitted to purchase these if not already in his own hands, and as no record of such a purchase has been found it is likely that they had all come into his possession as part of the hermitage. In that case the freeholds were early disposed of.
14 P.R.O., E. 315/236, fo. 37.
15 "Item Receved the xth day of may At the buryall of Lucas Hovnsbolte ffor the great Lyghttes vj Torches, the Clothe the knyll and the Peales … vijs ijd." (The Accounts of the Churchwardens, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, p. 93.)
16 Peter "Nicollson," glazier, by his will (Westmr. Wills, 25 Elsam), dated 30th January, proved 30th April, 1568, left to Sara, his daughter, the lease of the house "allwaies provided that she shall permitte … my … wieffe to enioye the same during her naturall lieffe."
17 P.R.O., E. 310/19/97, fo. 29.
18 There are several references to Sandys' residence here. "Being in the dining chamber in Essex House on Saturday night … the Earl of Essex asked if he knew where Lord Sandys lay; told him about Charing Cross, and was then sent to tell him that the Earl would speak with him" (3rd March, 1600–1, Cal. of S. P. Dom., 1601–3, p. 11). A letter from him to Lord Cecil "from my lodging, Charing Cross," dated 14th May, 1603, is among the MSS. of the Marquess of Salisbury, XV, p. 89, in the publications of the Historical MSS. Commission.
19 P.R.O., C. 66/1999.
20 P.R.O., L.R. 1/57, fo. 282. Sir William Waad, eldest son of Armagil Waad, "the English Columbus," was born in 1546. He early entered the diplomatic service, and was employed in many important missions on the Continent until 1587. At this time he had for some years been one of the clerks of the privy council, and henceforth was frequently engaged in investigating plots. He was knighted in 1603, and in 1605 was appointed lieutenant of the Tower. In this post his integrity proved inconvenient to the Countess of Essex in her designs against Sir Thomas Overbury, and in 1613 he was dismissed. In the same year he resigned his office as clerk of the privy council, and from that time until his death lived in retirement.
21 Westminster Wills, 347 Elsam.
22 No book is extant for 1592.
23 "Escape of Thomas Tichborne, when on his way after examination from Mr Waad's lodging at Charing-Cross" (Hist. MSS. Commn., MSS. of J. Eliot Hodgkin, pp. 271–2—A.D. 1598); letter dated 29th October, 1598, from W. Waad to Sir Robert Cecil, headed "Charing Cross." (Ibid., MSS. of Marquess of Salisbury, VIII, pp. 413–4.)
24 P.C.C., 116 Swann.
25 Washington, whose name occurs in various forms in the ratebooks, first appears in the book for 1627 and continues until 1640. His widow ("Frances Washington") is shown there in the following year, and in 1644 (the books for 1642 and 1643 are missing) her place is taken by "Mr Hall."
26 Ralph Hall died in 1660. His will (P.C.C., 186 Nabbs, proved 24th October, 1660) mentions "Mrs Amey Washington," his wife's daughter, so the probability is that he was a connection, by marriage, with his predecessor.
27 P.R.O., C. 54/4412. In 1715 (Middx. Register, 1715, IV, 52) Philip Craig mentions that the three houses in question had been rebuilt as two, then in the occupation of Marmaduke Constable and John Jones. From a comparison of the entries in successive ratebooks it appears that Constable's house afterwards became No. 25, Charing Cross (now No. 33, Whitehall), while Jones is shown as occupying the house on the southern side of the entrance into Craig's Court, i.e., No. 21, Charing Cross (now No. 25, Whitehall).
28 The Harp and Ball is mentioned as early as 1653 (letter dated 22nd April, 1653, from Thomas Skelton to Wm. Leptratt at the Harp and Ball, by Charing Cross—Cal. of S. P. Dom., 1652–3, p. 290). It is occasionally referred to by Pepys, who was smitten with the charms of the maid, Mary, at that establishment, and went so far as to treat her to an afternoon's outing by coach to Highgate and Hampstead. (Diary, 11th July, 1665.)
29 No. 21, Charing Cross, was occupied by George Woodfall, printer, from 1745 until his death in 1772. It has been stated (The Builder, 21st April, 1906) that this house was the office of "Woodfall, the printer," which, though true, is misleading, for the George Woodfall in question was not the notable printer of that name (Dict. Nat. Biog.), but his grand-uncle, brother of Henry Woodfall, printer of The Public Advertiser, and uncle of Henry Sampson Woodfall, the most notable member of the family.
30 Indenture, dated 11th February, 1861. (Middx. Register, 1861, V, 388.)
31 P.R.O., C.P. 25 (2) 323.
32 Indenture, dated 31st July, 1655, between James Waad and Frances his wife, William and Anne Waad their son and daughter, and Edward Eltonhed. (P.R.O., C. 54/3849.)
33 On 14th May, 1713, Joyce Lovelace sold to John Cartlitch and John Smith "those Two Messuages … Scituate … at or near Charing Cross … now or late in the severall Tenures … of one Thomas Woolley and Gyles Bignall," the property of her late husband Henry Lovelace (Middx. Register, 1713, V, 36). Henry's will, which does not mention the property in detail, was dated 22nd May, 1708 (P.C.C., 40 Leeds).
34 Indenture, dated 13th October, 1591. (P.R.O., C. 54/1393.)
35 Indenture, dated 12th March, 1596–7. (P.R.O., C. 54/1555.)
36 Indenture, dated 12th March, 1605–6. (P.R.O., C. 54/1854.)
37 Richard Green, clerk of the band of gentlemen pensioners, was knighted in 1617 (Shaw's Knights of England). His will (P.C.C., 20 Lee), dated 10th December, 1637, was proved 9th February, 1637–8.
38 She died in 1646 (P.C.C., 172 Twisse).
39 Cal. of S. P. Dom., 1658–9, p. 170.
40 Indenture, dated 15th March, 1754. (Middx. Register, 1754, I, 549.)
41 Indenture, dated 27th May, 1763. (Ibid., 1763, III, 96.)
42 It seems probable that George Baker, bookseller "near Charing Cross, at the sign of the White Lion," from 1627 to 1631 (H. R. Plomer's Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers, 1557–1640) occupied one of these houses. He is shown in the ratebooks from 1629 to 1632. From a comparison of ratebook entries it appears that one was occupied from 1659 to 1672 by John Unthanke, whose name appears frequently in the pages of Pepys' Diary. Unthanke was Mrs. Pepys' tailor, and Pepys several times refers to his establishment as being at Charing Cross. "Thence to Charing Cross, and there called at Unthanke's to see what I owed, but found nothing, and here being a couple of pretty ladies, lodgers in the kitchen, I staid a little there" (25th July, 1664). "I to Charing Cross, and there went into Unthanke's to have my shoes wiped, dirty with walking" (5th January, 1667–8). Unthanke's house is in the Hearth Tax Roll for 1666 assessed for 9 hearths.
43 P.C.C., 137 Coker.
44 P.R.O., C.P. 25 (2) 945.
45 P.C.C., 43 Bolton, dated 28th September, 1720, proved 7th February, 1723–4.
46 Indenture, dated 23rd October, 1789, between Edward Wright, etc., and Joseph Mills. (Middx. Register, 1789, VIII, 178.)
47 Ibid., 1811, VIII, 394.