CHAPTER 15: ST. MARTIN'S STREET
St. Martin's Street was developed circa 1692–3 by Hugh Marchant,
Huntley Bigg (fn. a) and others on ground previously known as the Blue Mews
(see Morden and Lea's Map, Plate 1). This was the northern part of the
2ac. 8p. close shown on the plan
of 1585 north of the Mews and east
of Hedge Lane and marked W. Its
early history from the time of its
purchase from the Mercers' Company by Henry VIII coincides with
that of Scavengers Close (see p.
101) and in 1623 it was bequeathed
by Robert Baker to his son Samuel
as a close of ground "now divided
into several parcels and in part
built upon, containing in the whole
about two acres more or less, situate
behind the mews, which I have
lately enclosed with a brick wall," (ref. 166)
The Parliament Survey (ref. 167) of this
plot, dated June, 1651, mentiuons
13 tenements there and several
stables and coachouse including
"the blew yard consisting of two
coachhouse and 12 stables built
part with Bricke and part with
Timber and Flemish wall all lofted
over, together with a Leastall and
a Deale yard contayning by estimacion 5 Roods." The southern part
of the close was sold by John Baker
to Edward Proger in 1664 (ref. 170)
while James Baker, son of John,
pursuant to a pervious agreement,
sold the Blue Mews in 1671 to the
Nicholas Cookes, father and son,
in trust for William Marchant. (ref. 171)
The price, including that of a messuage at the north-east corner acquired
from the Earl of Leicester, was £6, 350. St. Martin's Street first appears
in the ratebooks for 1693 when 7 houses are shown, while Blue Cross
Street, Cutting it at right angles and now part of Orange Street, also makes
its first apperance in that year.
Staircase details from No. 35, St. Martin's Street
In 1720 Strype was able to describe St. Martin's Street as " a handsome open Place, with very good Buildings for the Generality, and well
inhabited." None of the original houses now remain, and Lord Macaulay's
prophecy that No. 35, the home of Sir Isaac Newton would be "well known
as long as our island retains any trace of civilisation" has not been fulfilled.
No. 35, St. Martin's Street.— This house, which appears to have been
typical of the street, consisted of three storys and basement with a tilked roof.
The exterior was, in 1906 (Plate 98), covered with stucco through originally,
the front, like that of the adjoining house, was in brick. The entrance
doorway had projected hood supported on carved brackets.
Plans of No. 35, St. Martin's Street
The interior comprised front and back room with a projection wing
in the rear to each floor. The mantelpiece in the front room on the ground
floor had a marble bolection mounding suround (Plate 96c) and the walls
had bolection moulded panelling divided in two heights by a chair rail and
finished with a deep moulded cornice.
The front room on the first floor had a wood mantelpiece and decorative frieze with a carved central tablet representing a quiver of arrows and
ribboned sprays of laurel leaves (Plate96b).
Newton of Woolthorpe
The staircase had moulded close string, turned balusters and square
newels, all in keeping with the date of its erection.
The most famous resident, Sir Isaac Newton, occupied the house from 1711 until 1727,
the year of his death. During this time he was chiefly engaged on revising the Principia. He was
still active enough to make use of a small observatory which he had built at the top of the house
and to attend meetings of the Royal Society, though his period of greatest productivity was at an
end. A tablet recording was erected on No. 35 by the Society of Arts in 1881.
Dr. Burney took the house in 1774 and the greater part of his History of Music was
written there. Madame D'Arblay (Fanny Burney) in her Diary has the entry for 18th October,
1774; "We Came immediately to this house, which we propose calling Newton House, or The
Observatory, or something that sounds grand. By the way, Sir Isaac's identical observatory is still
subsisting, and we show it, to all our visitors, as our principal Lyon. I am very much pleased with
the mansion." The Diary contains notes of the literary and artistic celebrities, Dr. Johnson,
Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick and many others who were frequent visitors. The house had
yet a further claim to be remembered for it was there that the inimitable Evelina first saw the light.
The public library now covers the site of No. 35, which was pulled down in 1913.
Detail of marble mantelpiece from No. 35, St. Martin's Street
List of resident (according to the ratebooks):
1694–1705 Mauginet Lasso (Laswals); 1706 Stephen Lassall; 1707–10 Envoy of
Denmark; 1711–27 Sir Isaac Newton; 1728–35 Paul Docmenique, Esq.; 1736–59 Robert
Crosby; 1760–74 Archibale Murray; 1774–89 Dr. Charles Burnel; 1790 empty; 1791–1800