Harrington House, Craig's Court


English Heritage



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

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'Harrington House, Craig's Court', Survey of London: volume 16: St Martin-in-the-Fields I: Charing Cross (1935), pp. 232-237. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=68138 Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Ground Landlord.

The house is in the possession of H.M. Postmaster-General and is used as a telephone exchange.

History of the Site.

Craig's Court was formed by Joseph Craig, in the closing years of the seventeenth century, (fn. 1) for the most part on an open space formerly belonging to the hermitage (see pp. 228–9). Although the court first appears as a separate entity in the ratebook for 1696, some of the houses there had already been erected when in February, 1693–4, Craig applied for a Crown lease of the ground on the south side (see p. 218). (fn. 2) The early history of the court cannot, however, be stated with certainty. The names of the residents are not always given in quite the same order in the ratebooks, and the fact that half of them disappear in 1705, while two of the three remaining houses have fresh occupants, renders it impossible to trace the history of individual houses in the earlier years. The most highly assessed house was that occupied by Joseph Craig himself, and although Harrington House cannot be identified with absolute certainty until 1716, it will appear that there is considerable reason for believing that it was originally Craig's house. Below are given four lists of the houses in Craig's Court, the first, second and fourth being taken from the ratebooks for the years 1711, 1714 and 1716, and the third from two indentures, dated 3rd and 4th July, 1715, respectively. (fn. 3)

Sir Richd Howe £2 Joseph Craig Esq. £3 10s. Sri Richd Howe £2 10s. Secretary's Office £3 Sir Richard How "the large messuage … now or late in the tenure … of the … Marquess of Moncross" (fn. 4) Sir Richd Howe £6 Henry Kelsall £1 10s.
Secretary Lynn £1, 10s.Philip Craig £1 10s.Constance CraigPhilip Craig £2
Samuell Bourne £1 10s.Captain Bourne £1 10s.William BourneCaptain Bourne £1 10s.
Mr. Sloper £1 10s.Willm Sloper £1 10s.William SloperWillm Sloper £1 10s.

A study of the above lists suggests: (i) That Philip Craig did not occupy his father's house, but exchanged with Secretary Lynn. (fn. 5) The alteration in the position of the names, combined with the differences in rateable value, makes this practically certain. (ii) That the "large messuage" is, by a process of elimination, to be equated with the "Secretary's Office" (which is in fact the highest rated of all), i.e. with the house previously occupied by Joseph Craig. (iii) As regards the two houses at the top of the list in 1716 two explanations are possible: (a) That Howe's and Kelsall's houses are respectively identical with Howe and the Secretary's Office in 1714, in spite of the great difference in rateable value; (b) That Howe's house in 1716 represents Howe and the Secretary's Office combined, and that Kelsall's house (which certainly corresponds with No. 5 on the south side of the court) is a new house. The latter explanation seems much the more probable, and is confirmed by the fact that No. 6, the other house on the south side, does not appear until 1725. Moreover, it is impossible to find an equation with Howe's 1711 house before 1710. In 1708–9 only four houses are given and Craig's is rated at £4 5s. against 35s. each for the other three.

It is suggested therefore that the original large house on the east side (afterwards Harrington House) was the house occupied by Joseph Craig, that in 1710 a part of it was let off to Howe, and that in 1716 the whole passed into the latter's occupation. The first appearance of Joseph Craig at that house (fn. 6) seems to have been in 1693, and if the above assumptions are valid the erection of the house may be assigned to 1692.

In 1725 Philip Craig took (fn. 7) a lease of ground (formerly part of that belonging to the Hospital of St. Mary, Rounceval) lying between his houses in Craig's Court and the garden of Northumberland House, the dimensions being 34¾ feet on the north, 163 feet on the east, and 7 feet 10 inches on the south towards Scotland Yard, and on the west side "which runs levell untill the break that begins there, abutting upon the present dwelling house of the said Wm (sic) Craig in Craig's Court" 74 feet, "and which said peice of ground afterwards contains a little Triangular Break and then Continues on a bevill line fronting towards Scotland Yard" 89 feet. This lease must have been periodically renewed, although no records of the fact have been found, for in 1871 the Earl of Harrington was in possession of a similar lease due to expire at Lady Day, 1875. On 19th December, 1871, an Order of the Charity Commissioners was obtained authorising the governors of Trinity Hospital, Greenwich, the owners of the freehold, to sell the premises to the earl, as well as other property lying on the north, for £7,600. The plan is here reproduced, and it will be seen that the "music room" of Harrington House was actually on ground originally belonging to the Hospital of St. Mary, Rounceval.

Land belonging to Trinity Hospital (formerly of Hospital of St. Mary,
Rounceval) sold to Earl Harrington in 1871.

Figure 41: Land belonging to Trinity Hospital (formerly of Hospital of St. Mary, Rounceval) sold to Earl Harrington in 1871.
Copied from plan in the possession of the Charity Commissioners

Description of Structure.

This building comprises three storeys with a slate mansard roof which has recently been increased in height. The exterior is executed in brick with stone dressings, and, though the architect is unknown, the design bears a marked resemblance to the work of Captain Wynne as featured in Newcastle House, Lincoln's Inn Fields (see Survey of London, volume III).

The front, which is divided into a composition of three vertical bays, has the centre slightly advanced, with quoins to the external corners and the whole of the façade crowned with a heavy modillion cornice and a balustraded parapet. Attention is drawn to the Ionic entrance porch and the enriched window above as illustrated in Plate 104 and 105.

The interior has undergone considerable structural alterations, the back wall having been rebuilt and an extra storey added to the roof. The rooms originally had bolection-moulded panelling in two heights, but with the exception of the entrance hall containing the staircase this has all been removed. The oval ballroom on the ground floor had the wall surfaces divided into panels by Ionic pilasters, but judging by the section of the mouldings this work was of later date than the rest of the house. (fn. 8)

The main staircase (Plate 106 and 107), which is of generous width, continues to the first floor and is chiefly executed in oak with some pine. The newel posts are treated as small Corinthian columns, and the balusters are turned, fluted and spiral—three to a tread—while the outer string has carved brackets to the returned nosings of the treads. A panelled dado follows the sweep of the stairs. The remainder of the wall surface is panelled with a decorative band to the floor above. There was a secondary staircase which had turned deal balusters and a close string with moulded capping. A carved pine mantelpiece from one of the rooms on the first floor (Plate 108) is preserved by H.M. Office of Works with other features of interest, including marble and stone mantelpieces with bolection moulding surrounds.

Condition of Repair.

The house has been enlarged, and the portions of the former building which have been retained are in good condition.

General view of stair

Figure 42: General view of stair balustrading

Historical Notes.

Little is known of Joseph Craig, the builder of Stanhope Court and Craig's Court. It is stated that in 1699 he was elected a vestryman of St. Martin's. He died in 1711, and his house in Craig's Court seems to have remained unoccupied until 1714, when it is referred to in the ratebook as "Secretary's Office." The circumstances in which it came to be used for this purpose are related in a petition (undated) by the Earl of Mar. (fn. 9) It appears that when the earl was appointed secretary of state in 1713, there was no convenient apartment at the Cockpit for his office, and the Queen therefore ordered him "to take some Convenient House in the Neighbourhood of Whithall" for the purpose, promising that she would pay the rent and defray the cost of fitting up the house. "Accordingly the said Earl did enter into Articles for a House in Craig's Court, in which his Office was kept so long as he was Secretary, and thereafter the Duke of Montrose came into the said House for his Office when he gott the Sealls [24th September, 1714] and still keeps the Possession of it." The account submitted by the earl for payment included the item: "To Mr. Craig of Rent for … Office from Lady Day, 1714, to Lady Day, 1715—£200."

Baluster to

Figure 43: Baluster to secondary staircase

Sir Richard Howe

The ratebooks suggest (see p. 233) that in 1716 Sir Richard Howe, who since 1710 had been occupying a part only of Joseph Craig's house, entered into occupation of the whole. Sir Richard Grubham Howe, Bt., was born circa 1651, and succeeded to the baronetcy in or before 1703. He died in 1730. His residence in Craig's Court lasted until 1718, when he was succeeded by the Earl of Essex.

Capel, Earl of Essex

This was William, the 3rd Earl, born in 1697. In 1718 he was appointed gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales, and on the latter succeeding to the Crown in 1727 he was continued in office. In 1725 he was made K.T., and from 1731 to 1736 was ambassador to the King of Sardinia. In 1738 he became a knight companion of the Garter. He died in 1743. His residence in Craig's Court was only brief, his name being superseded by that of Elizabeth Strangeways in 1721. Elizabeth Strangeways was at the house for a year only. Thenceforward for some years the house was unoccupied, the next resident being Lady Tipping, who appears in the ratebooks for 1726 and 1727. She died at the house in January, 1728. (fn. 10)

From 1728 to 1730 Sir Charles Hotham is shown at the house. This was probably the 5th Baronet, colonel of the horse-grenadier guards, a groom of the bedchamber and M.P. for Beverley He died in 1739. From 1730 to 1736 the house was again unoccupied, but in the latter year was taken by Robert Cowen, who in 1737 was succeeded by Alexander Stuart. Stuart remained there until 1745, when the house was again empty until 1750. In that year the name of Thomas Carew appears in the ratebooks in respect of the house, and so continues until 1758, when it was replaced by that of Brice Fisher, who is still shown in the ratebook for 1762.

The Sun Fire Office first appears in Craig's Court in 1726 at a house which was afterwards No. 9. It remained there until 1759. At a meeting of the managers on 4th January in that year it was resolved to remove to Mr. Brice Fisher's house, Mr. Fisher being paid £30 a quarter "in lieu of house-rent, taxes, coals, candles, servants, wages, house cleaning and petty expenses for the office now to be kept at his house in Craig's Court." (fn. 11) This move was evidently effected without delay. On 14th October, 1762, "in order to secure the possession of their present office in Craig's Court," Mr. Fisher was asked (fn. 12) to assign the lease to the Sun Fire Office, which appears in the ratebooks in the appropriate position for the first time in 1765 (the books for 1763–4 are missing). The Office remained at the house for over a century. The managers were accommodated in the southern portion of the premises, and the directories for the nineteenth century consistently show No. 3 as the Sun Office and No. 4 under the managers' names. One of these was Mr. Lilly Ainscombe (1776–91), whose name appears in the plan reproduced on p. 218.

In 1867 the Sun Office moved to Nos. 60–61, Charing Cross (see p. 135), and in the following year the Earl of Harrington is shown at the house, which was thenceforth known as Harrington House. The statement in the Journal of the London Society for December, 1930, that it was bought by Lord Harrington "at some unknown date prior to 1780," apparently rests on the fact that the 4th Earl was born in 1780 at "Harrington House." But the Harrington House of that period was in Stable Yard, St. James's, and the house in Craig's Court was not "bought." The property of Joseph Craig had descended successively to his son Philip, and to the latter's sons, Philip, (fn. 13) James, (fn. 14) and Francis. (fn. 15) Francis (General Francis Craig) by his will dated 6th July, 1809, left all his estate after payment of certain legacies, to Charles, 3rd Earl of Harrington. (fn. 16) Charles Wyndham, the 7th Earl, was therefore in possession of the freehold when in 1867–8 he moved to the house vacated by the Sun Fire Office. He died there in 1881.

Earl of Harrington

In 1917 the building was sold to Cox's, the army bankers, and in 1925, together with adjoining property on the north, was purchased by the Postmaster-General.

In the Council's Collection Are:

(fn. 17) General elevation of exterior (photograph).
(fn. 17) General elevation (copy of drawing in the possession of H.M. Office of Works).
(fn. 17) Ground floor plan (measured drawing).
(fn. 17) General views of staircase (2) (photographs).
(fn. 17) Detail of carved brackets (photograph).
(fn. 17) Sketches of entrance hall (2) (photographs of drawings in the possession of H.M. Office of Works).
(fn. 17) Detail of pine mantelpiece from first floor, in the possession of H.M. Office of Works (photograph).


1 In Strype's edition of Stow's Survey the court is referred to thus: "Then Craggs Court, a very handsome large Court, with new Buildings fit for Gentry of Repute; especially those on the Side fronting the Thames, or Northumberland Garden. This Court is very near to Scotland Yard." (1720 edn., Book VI, p. 76.)
2 (i) "The petitioner's design was to build upon this ground and to pul down some rotten sheds & housing that then stood upon it: he having ground of inheritance upon which He had erected fair buildings, contiguous with this Ground." (ii) "Ye Petitioner … has new Buildings adioyning with an open Court before them on the Northside of the premisses." (P.R.O., T. 1/27/6.)
3 (i) Indenture between Philip Craig and Sir Thos Powis, Sir Philip Meadows, Vigerus Edwards and Jas Lund (Middx. Register, 1715, IV, 52); (ii) Indenture between (1) Philip Craig, (2) Elizabeth Baynton, (3) Constance Craig, (4) Katherine Ashby, and (5) Sir Thos Powis, Sir Philip Meadows, Vigerus Edwards and Jas Lund (ibid., 53).
4 "Montrose." James Graham, 4th Marquess of Montrose, had, however, been created duke in 1707.
5 Probably secretary-at-war. A letter, dated 15th August, 1712, from Samuel Lynn is docketted as "letter from Secretary-at-War." (Cal. of Treasury Papers, 1708–14, p. 417.)
6 The Craigs seem to have resided in several houses in the vicinity. James Craig is shown by the ratebooks to have lived next door to Malhew and Stockdale, i.e. in what was afterwards represented by No. 20, Charing Cross, and was then known as The Talbot (see p. 242). His son Joseph does not appear in the ratebooks until 1676, when he is apparently living in the house formerly occupied by Alexander Cully (at the rear of the later No. 19). He continues there (save for an interval when the house was occupied by Simon Verelet) until 1692. In the following year the position of his name is altered, and he seems to have entered his new house in Craig's Court.
7 Indenture, dated 20th January, 1724–5, between Thos Owen and Thos Burdus, executors of Thos Johnson and Philip Craig. (Middx. Register, 1724, VI, 444.)
8 It has been noticed above that the ballroom stands on ground not included in Craig's freehold.
9 P.R.O., T. 1/196/33.
10 "On Sunday Night died at her House in Craiggs-Court the Hon. Lady Anne Tipping, who was the only surviving Daughter of Thomas Cheeke Esq by the late Lady Russel. … She was as happy in the Endowments of Nature, as in the Gifts of Fortune." (The Daily Post, 23rd January, 1727–8.)
11 Extract from the minutes kindly furnished by the Sun Insurance Office, Ltd.
12 Ibid.
13 See the elder Philip's will (P.C.C., 380, Simpson) dated 30th March, 1764, proved 11th July, 1764.
14 See the younger Philip's will (P.C.C., 156, Bogg) dated 29th December, 1768, proved 12th May, 1769.
15 See James's will (P.C.C., 194, Macham) dated 2nd October, 1788, proved 27th April, 1789.
16 Middx. Register, 1846, VIII, 605.
17 Reproduced here.