These are a series of short notes on some of the more interesting buildings of London that are now generally forgotten. Most of them have disappeared but an occasional gem does survive and some have left their names in the places they once occupied.
The Cromwell House staircase
The house had no connection with Oliver Cromwell. The name did not appear until 1809 when it was believed that it had been either built or altered for his daughter on her marriage to Ireton in 1646. It was built for the Spignell family in 1637-8 later became the home for one of the first Jewish families allowed to settle in the country during the Commonwealth. When Alvaro Mendes de Costa bought the freehold in 1675 he was the first Jew to own property in London since the 13th century. He installed a private synagogue, the remains of which were revealed in recent restoration work.
There have been a number of extensions since 1638, notably the extension over the carriage arch, and the cupola but it is still very much as it was, including a magnificently carved original oak staircase. Inside are two plaster ceilings, copies of the originals which were damaged by fire in 1865 after which the roof was re-built with a row of dormer windows and a cupola. By this time it had been a school for boys for some years. Early in the 20th century it was used as a convalescent home for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. Between the two World Wars of the 20th century it was the location of Sir Truby King's Mothercraft Training Society and was later occupied by the Montfort Missionary Society.
This is a two-storey house in red brick built in 1637-8 by Sir Richard Sprignell on the site of an older property. It is one of a group of notable houses from the early 17th century which stood in the country or in their own grounds. Others are Ham House, in Petersham, Ashburnam House, Westminster and Eltham Lodge. All were built in brick and have what are referred to as hipped roofs where instead of a gable end the roof is made to slope back from all sides. The lines of intersection are known as hips. The photograph of Eltham Lodge shows the construction quite clearly.
During the first half of the 17th century the gable held its own against the incursion of the hipped roof. There are many examples of the Dutch gable, of gables treated as pediments and of other devices to cover this traditional Gothic feature with a Classic veneer in keeping with the Renaissance style. However, the inherent difficulties of integrating the steep pitch of the old tile roofs into the classic design gave the Renaissance architects no alaternative but to reject the gable and adopt the hipped roof. This had the added advantage that the presence of the roof could be ignored in the architectural design.
The fa ade was considered to be completed by the cornice around the eaves and the angles of the building were either adorned with long pilasters or with quoins. These were no more than projecting blocks of brick or of stone. Cromwell House has these quoins and its front has a door and windows the mouldings of which are cut in brick. A simple design over the doorway forms a central feature.
Internally, there are several fine doorways leading from the staircase and which display the distinctive features that link the two phases of Renaissance architecture in London. The magnificent staircase itself, seen in the photograph, is the last in the Jacobean style to have been built in London. It has fine square newels and elaborately carved pedastal-finials that support the wooden statues of beautifully carved military figures with their individual features. They were, however, stolen in the 1980s. The House is the last reflection of the Gothic tendency towards the vertical line as opposed to the horizontal limits of the new style.
This was an open square at the western end of Lombard Street. The site is now occupied by the Mansion House. The market was established by the Lord Mayor, Henry Wallis, under the terms of a charter issued by Edward I which authorised the establishment of a market next to the church of St Mary Woolnoth. The rents which were earned from the market were to be used for the maintenance of London Bridge.
When it was established, it was the only site in the City which had a fixed pair of stocks and it therefore became known as Les Stokkes. One recorded pillorying was that of William Sperlynge, a butcher from Westham. He had attempted to sell rotten meat and, as he sat in the pillory the rotten carcasses were burnt under his nose. By the mid 15th century, the Stocks had become an established fish and flesh market.
It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and the authorities ordered that the site be sold to the best advantage of the City. St Mary Woolchurchwas demolished in 1668 and a new, and larger, market was built on the site. It became a general market for fruit and vegetables and other goods and was very popular. It was here that gillyflowers, newly imported from the Levant, were sold and nicknamed stocks.
It was also the site of one of the curiosities of London. This was an equestrian statue which began life as a statue of John Sobieski, the king of Poland who defeated the Turks at Vienna. John was shown in the act of cutting down a Turk but the statue was never finished. Instead, it was purchased by the Lord Mayor Sir Robert Vyner and brought back to London. Vyner had Sobieski's head replaced by that of Charles II and that of the Turk by that of Oliver Cromwell - leaving the Turk's turban to adorn the latter. The statue was later presented to a descendant of Sir Robert Vyner and was removed to his estate in Lincolnshire. The market survived until 1737 when plans were made to construct the Mansion House as the Lord mayor's official residence. The Market was re-established, as Fleet Market, on the newly covered over section of the Fleet Canal,now Farringdon Street which was constructed in 1826-30.
The Yorkshire Stingo in 1770
This was a popular tavern in Marylebone and its name is derived from the 18th century fashionable slang word for strong beer. The tavern was situated at what is now the junction between Chapel Street and Marylebone road. Following the construction of the New Road the precursor of the modern Euston Road Tea Gardens and a bowling green were added to the premises.
Marylebone Public Baths
In 1790 the second cast-iron bridge ever to be built, and which was designed by Thomas Paine, was brought from Rotherham and set up on the bowling green. The bridge was not a popular addition and was soon returned to Rotherham. In the early 19th century the tavern became a favourite haunt of the expanding middle classes. By 1836 the Apollo Saloon, a hall for vaudeville and burlesque, had been added but in 1848 the tavern was closed and the site used for the construction of the new County Court and Baths.
London's first bus
London's first regular scheduled bus came into service on July 4th 1829. It was introduced by the coach-maker George Shillibeer who had worked with Jaques Lafitte who ran a fleet of buses in Paris. Shillibeer operated two 22-seat buses which were drawn by three horses abreast 'after the French fashion'. The route followed the New Road and city road and ran from The Yorkshire Stingo to Bank.
Shillibeer employed two sons of naval officers as his original conductors and dressed them in midshipman uniforms. Entrance to the omnibus was from the rear and passengers were provided with newspapers and magazines for their amusement and edification. The fare for the full distance was one shilling with sixpence being charged for any intermediate stage.