CHAPTER 4: THE VESTRY HALL, VICARAGE, AND CHURCH SCHOOLS
The buildings in St. Martin's Place which comprise the Vestry Hall,
Vicarage, and National Schools were erected circa 1830 as part of the Charing
Cross improvement scheme. The façade of the schools bears the inscription
"St. Martin's National Schools. Built by Subscription on Ground the
Gift of His Majesty King George IV. MDCCCXXX." (fn. a) By the deed of
grant, dated 20th July, 1833, the Crown conveyed to the Vicar and Churchwardens a piece of ground on the north side of the churchyard 98 feet by
28 feet together with the school building lately erected there to be used as
a National School for the education of poor children of the parish. A nominal
rent of £1 per annum was to be paid.
In 1841 owing to lack of space the school was allowed the use of the
upper floor of the Vestry Hall, which was converted into classrooms and has
since remained part of the school. The premises were reconditioned in 1907,
after the Council took over the duties of the London School Board.
The present vicarage was erected at the same time as the vestry
hall and school at the expense of the Rev. George Richards, who was then
vicar of the parish.
The earliest record of a parish school at St. Martin's is an entry in the churchwardens'
accounts for 1571: "payd to geyls quarrell for setinge the scolhowse wyndowe & for vj newe q'rels
iijs ijd." Ben Jonson received his early education at this school, which was probably situated beside
the church. In 1614–15 a new schoolhouse and vestry room was built adjoining the church on the
south side. This building is shown in Vertue's drawing of the old church (Plates 8 and 9). The
Vestry met in the upper room, the school being housed on the ground floor until 1693, when the
scholars were transferred to Archbishop Tenison's school (see p. 113). The old schoolroom was
used as a session house from 1706 until the church was pulled down. A new vestry hall was built
at the south-east corner of the churchyard in 1728, and demolished in 1828. The parochial charity
school which was the real ancestor of the present National School was started in 1699 at Hungerford
Market (see Survey of London, Vol. XVIII). It subsequently occupied premises in Hemmings Row
and Castle Street (see pp. 113–4).
The old vicarage stood at the north-east corner of the Churchyard. It was apparently
newly built in 1579 when a certain Thomas Davyes was accused of taking away "dyuerse peces of
Wood & framed tymber" from the Vicarage House, (ref. 79) which the Vicar, Christopher Hayward, was
then building, and carrying them into the neighbouring garden of Mr. Styward. (fn. b) The vicarage
was rebuilt in 1666–7. (ref. 35)
||Although the deed dates from William IV, the site was granted under the provisions
of the Act 7 & 8 George IV, c. 66, entitled "an act to extend an act of the fifty-sixth year of His
Late Majesty enabling his Majesty to grant small portions of land as suited for public buildings or
to be used as cemeteries."
||Sir Simeon Steward the poet, who rented a house in Church Lane from the parish.
||St. Martin-in-the-Fields Vestry Minutes.
||P.R.O., Court of Requests 2/124/26.