Victoria Street

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THEMES COVERED
EDUCATION - Ragged school - Charity (coat) schools - Westminster (public) School - Public Library
HEALTH - Dispensary - Westminster Hospital - Empire Paying Hospital - Public Baths
HOUSING - Workhouse - Working Boys' Hostel - Almshouses - Social housing - Booth - Queen Anne's Gate - Mansion blocks - St George's House - Palmer's Village
INDUSTRIES - Brewing - Gasworks - Piano manufacture
LAW & ORDER - Sanctuary - Gatehouse Prison - Tothill Bridewell - Middlesex Guildhall - Police stations
LEISURE Inns & Pubs - Royal Horticultural Halls - Royal Aquarium - Westminster Theatre
RELIGION - Cathedral - St Stephen - St John the Evangalist - St Matthew - Westminster Central Hall - Westminster Chapel
TRANSPORT - Early tram - Victoria Stations - London Transport HQ

INTRODUCTION
One of the 4 major streets created in the 19th century this was slow in contruction – projected in 1844, officially opened in 1851 and still unfinished in the 1880s. Designed to link Buckingham Palace and Belgravia with Westminster and Whitehall it necessitated the destruction of slum areas and served Victoria Station when built in 1861. One of the few attractive buildings remaining is the Albert pub built in 1862 on the corner of Buckingham Gate to replace an earlier pub the Bluecoat Boy first recorded in 1831.

RELIGION

WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL – Victoria Street
This stands on a site previously occupied by Tothill Bridewell (prison 1834-85) – see LAW & ORDER. Designed by John Francis Bentley in Byzantine style with fine marble work and mosaics. The building began in 1895 and is on-going. It is open 7am (weekdays) 8am (weekends) – 7pm. Guide books are on sale in the shop. A lift ascends the 273’ bell tower to a viewing gallery (charge).
website

METHODIST CENTRAL HALL
This stands on the site of the former Royal Aquarium (1876-1903) – see LEISURE. It was designed by Lancaster & Rickards in Viennese Baroque style. Methodists, regardless of income, were asked to subscribe one guinea to finance the building. Each signed the Historic Roll (stored at the Hall) and received a certificate or medal. There is a programme of services, meetings, exhibitions and events plus a café in the basement.
website

ST JOHN’S (THE EVANGALIST) SMITH SQUARE
This most expensive of the 50 new churches was built 1713–28 and designed by Thomas Archer. It was an unloved (Dickens hated it) and unlucky church. It had problems with its foundations and was gutted by fire in 1742 and bombed in WWII. It was re-built as a concert venue in the late 1960s by Marshall Sisson.

ST MATTHEW – Great Peter Street
Built in 1849-51 to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott with a Lady Chapel by Ninian Comper. Badly damaged by fire in 1977 it was re-built on a smaller scale by 1982-4 and has a fine interior.

ST STEPHEN – Rochester Row
Built of Northumbrian sandstone in 1845-50 to the designs of Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil of Pugin. It was financed by the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts in memory of her father.

WESTMINSTER CHAPEL - Buckingham Gate
Built on the site of Westminster Hospital (see HEALTH) in 1840 and re-built in 1865 to hold 3000 people.

 

LAW & ORDER

SANCTUARY
Unfortunately the Abbey’s traditional role of providing sanctuary, which ended in the 17th century, gave rise to an undesirable element in the area. Bow Street to the north was known as 'Thieving Lane'. The area south of Tothill Street was the Almonry, province of the alms-giver, but by 1783 was populated with thieves and prostitutes based around the inns. Local shopkeepers petitioned magistrates not to grant licences as the behaviour of these'undesirables' was losing them trade. The premises disappeared under the 1845 Improvement Act and the construction of the Metropolitan District Railway & Royal Aquarium so that by the beginning of the 20th century Tothill Street had no licensed establishments. The area around Old Pye Street became known in Victorian times as the Devil’s Acre, with half the population estimated to be criminals. Here pubs acted as meeting places and receiving houses for stolen goods and the district was virtually a no-go area for the police.

GATEHOUSE PRISON
The Abbey Gatehouse incorporated a prison from the 14th century until demolition in 1776 on a site now occupied by the Westminster scholar's Crimean War Memorial. It housed Sir Walter Raleigh the night before his execution, the Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace and for a short time Samuel Pepys.

TOTHILL BRIDEWELL
Originally built as a House of Correction south of present Howick Place in the 17th century it later became a county prison. An old doorway with an inscription has been re-located to the west of the Supreme Court building. Its replacement was built in 1834 for 800 prisoners and operated on a separate/silent system with a treadmill and oakum-picking. In 1850 when the prison was used for women and boys under 17 the regime was modified. Westminster Cathedral now stands on the site.

Former MIDDLESEX GUILDHALL – Broad Sanctuary
The site of a former meat market. The original building of 1805 was demolished in 1892. Its Gothic replacement lasted less than 20 years. The present building was designed by J S Gibson and completed in 1913. After serving as a Crown Court from the 1980s it now houses the Supreme Court. This is open to the public and there is an exhibition in the basement on the working of the court and the history of the building. [
website]

POLICE STATIONS
In 1846 the police moved into premises in Rochester Row / Vincent Square adapted from a pair of semi-detached houses. The stable block was added in 1867 and had accommodation above. The Edwardian court house and police station were designed by J Dixon Butler but the complex has now been converted to apartments. New Scotland Yard, the police headquarters, is in Broadway.

 

INDUSTRIES

BREWING
An abundant water supply favoured brewing including at Thorne’s around St John’s burial ground. The Greene family had been brewers since Medieval times setting up in Stag Place in 1641. Their premises were re-built several times and after becoming Elliots then Watneys and finally Watney Coombe Reid the brewery was closed in 1959 and demolished soon after.

PIANOS
Broadwoods had its main factory on a site in Horseferry Road from 1858 to 1902, later occupied by the Department of Transport.

GAS
The Gas Light & Coke Company set up gasworks in Horseferry Road in 1813 (see plaque). Production ceased in 1875, the gasholders were demolished in 1937 and the site closed completely in 1948. The substructures of the gasholders remained under the building, later occupied by the Department of the Environment, as part of the wartime Whitehall defence system.

 

HOUSING

MANSION BLOCKS
The buildings at the north ends of Carlisle Place and Morpeth Terrace were designed by Charles O Parnell in 1859 and are the earliest examples in London of a concept already popular in France and Scotland. Attractive blocks were built were built further along the streets in the 1880s.

QUEEN ANNES GATE / OLD QUEEN STREET
This was originally Park Street to the east (rebuilt later 18th century) and Queen Square to the west (built 1704) and was separated by railings until 1873. There is a statue of Queen Anne and a number of blue plaques.

SOCIAL HOUSING
The first group was set up in 1841 but by the 1870s there were 30 providers of model dwellings (5% philanthropy). Rochester Buildings of 1862 still stand on Old Pye Street / Perkins Rents (pictured) and feature in an engraving by Gustav Dore (
image). These were sold to the Peabody Trust which built its own flats, also designed by Henry Darbishire, around Abbey Orchard Street and Old Pye Street in the 1870s. Peabody had also built 93 flats east of Brewer's Green in 1868 which were lost to post-war development. George Peabody, an American whose work brought him to London, gave £½ million towards social housing . Meanwhile Sir Sydney Waterlow, stationer and MP, founded the Improved Industrial Dwelling Corporation which built the Coburg buildings in Greencoat Place in 1875. One of the old courts which were once numerous in the area remains opposite this. A gate leads into a courtyard surrounded by dwellings. There is a statue of Waterlow in the forecourt of Westminster City School. The cottages in Page Street, built by John Johnson, were the subject of a report by Westminster's Medical Officer of Health in 1928 having suffered from flooding early in the year. As a result they were demolished to be replaced with the 'chequer board' flats designed by Edwin Lutyens for the Grosvenor Estate and City Council. There are a number of 'pavilions' with lock-up shops.

BOOTH
In spite of improvements with the provision of social housing when Charles Booth carried out his street by street survey in connection with his book 'Life & Labour of the People of London' some streets in the area still merited the black (lowest class) and dark blue (very poor) classifications. Tufton Street was found to be much poorer and rougher, some bad buildings, a bad common lodging house. The street was noisy with children and there were an extraordinary number living in it. Laundry Yard (alongside the gasworks) was narrow & neglected. The rubbish a disgrace, pined children, fat women. One of the lowest places in Westminster. In Chadwick Street the houses were black & grimy, open doors, dirty children and bad faced women, all the normal signs of physical neglect and moral degradation. Great Peter Street was mainly composed of old houses, many single room tenements, a thoroughly bad women's common lodging house whilst the pubs had their groups of vulgar, fat, slatternly lowest standard women gossiping round. Booth 360 pgs 246-9 District 24.

ST GEORGE'S HOUSE
This was designed in 1905 by R Stephen Ayling for 'ladies engaged in or training for professional work'. For just over £12 per annum each of the 50 residents had a bed-sitting room with a small metered gas fire. There was a communal drawing room, sitting room, dining room and laundry. Storage for bicycles was provided in the basement.

WORKHOUSE
The Greycoat Hospital – see EDUCATION took over the former workhouse which had been set up in 1664.

WORKING BOY'S HOSTEL
Premises were built in 1912 on the corner of Horseferry Road and Tufton Street by the
Fegan's organisation (marked with a plaque). The accommodation had to be let for other purposes in 1914 but the offices remained there until the 1940s.

ALMHOUSES
Lady Dacre endowed the Emmanuel Hospital on her death in 1595. A site was purchased in 1602 to house 10 men and 10 women. Lady Dacre thought to solve the problem of orphan children at the same time by allocating a child to each pensioner but this was unsuccessful. Rebuilt in the time of Queen Anne it was demolished in 1894 to be replaced with St James Court despite efforts to save it. Pictures show it to have been similar to the present Geffrye Museum. Palmer's almhouses were founded in 1654 for 12 people. These were lost around 1881 when Victoria Street was built. Meanwhile Emery Hill had provided funds for almshouses in Rochester Row (built 1708). The various foundations were consolidated on this site as the United Westminster Charities. They were re-built by R R Arntz in 1882 and are still in use. Various plaques and a bust of Hill are mounted on the walls.

PALMER'S VILLAGE
The endowment by James Palmer (see above) included six acres of Tothill Fields immediately to the south west of the almshouses intended to generate income for the foundation. This area developed as mainly single storey cottages housing the labouring poor. It had a village green, shop and pub (the Prince of Orange). [more info]

HEALTH

DISPENSARY
Established in Charles Street in 1789 this later moved to Rochester Row where it is marked by a plaque.

WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL
Founded in 1715 this has had 4 sites in Victoria; from 1720 in Petty France, 1730s-1830s on a site now occupied by the Westminster Chapel, 1830s – 1930s in Broad Sanctuary (demolished 1951 – now a grassed area) and finally around St John’s Gardens (closed 1990s and redeveloped).

EMPIRE PAYING HOSPITAL
The building on Vane Street / Vincent Square by WE Hazell (1912-3) has become a hotel and the inscription on the entablature almost erased.

PUBLIC BATHS
Situated in Great Smith Street and now used as a community centre these had a second class entrance from St Ann Street. Part of the building was replaced by Westminster Archives in the 1990s.

 

EDUCATION

RAGGED SCHOOL
This was opened in what had been the One Tun pub in Perkins Rents by Adeline Cooper in 1853 and moved to Old Pye Street (where it is marked by a plaque) in 1879 becoming a mission until 1930.

CHARITY SCHOOLS
The area can boast 5 ‘colours’ - Blue, Brown & Black to the north and Green and Grey to the south of Victoria Street. Often these were founded in association with almshouses in the 17th century. Much of the education was practical and usually girls went into service or dressmaking and boys into trade or apprenticeship. St Margaret’s (GREENCOAT) was built near the present Greencoat Boy pub in 1620. Emery Hill provided the pupils with Christmas porridge & roast meat and green mittens to go with their coats.
The GREYCOAT School was founded for 50 boys in 1698 by local shopkeepers. It began near the Abbey but moved into the old workhouse building in 1701, becoming a boarding establishment for girls and boys. It was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Anne. When Westminster Charity Schools were re-organised it became a girls school (in 1874) - which it remains. The building itself was rebuilt in 1955 after bomb damage.

The BLUECOAT School was founded in 1688 in Duck Lane (now St Matthews Street) and moved to a new building in Brewers Green in 1709. This had been provided by the brewer William Greene (see INDUSTRIES) who used the basement for beer storage. Girls joined in 1713 and it remained a school until 1939. It was bought and renovated by the National Trust in 1954 and now serves as a shop and information centre.

After Lady Dacre's orphan project failed (see ALMSHOUSES) the foundation eventually set up a BROWNCOAT School in 1738. This moved to Battersea in 1883. Palmer's Hospital (see ALMSHOUSES) included a BLACKCOAT School for 20 pupils until 1728 when it had to close due to lack of funds. The charity schools were amalgamated as the WESTMINSTER CITY SCHOOL in Palace Street, on what had been the garden of the Emmanuel Hospital.

WESTMINSTER (PUBLIC) SCHOOL
This originates with the Abbey and was re-founded by Queen Elizabeth I. The Public Schools Act of 1868 separated it from the Abbey. Between 1602 and 1884 the school was taught in one room, part of the 11th century monastic dormitory. The Queen's Scholar's Dormitory was designed by Wren and completed by Lord Burlington together with the gateway in 1734. The Dormitory and School had to be rebuilt after bomb damage. College Hall built in 1369-76 by Yevele as the Abbot's dining room is now the refectory. The school also uses the Busby Library built during the Commonwealth and Ashburnham House built at the Restoration. Vincent Square, laid out in the 18th century and named after a former Headmaster provides the school with playing fields.

PUBLIC LIBRARY
This opened in 1857 in the former Mechanics Institute in Great Smith Street and was the first free public library in London. The present building, designed by F J Smith was opened in 1893 on the opposite (west) side.

 

LEISURE

INNS & PUBS
One of the few attractive buildings in Victoria Street (on the corner of Buckingham Gate) is the Albert pub built in 1862 to replace an earlier pub the Bluecoat Boy first recorded in 1831. From the 15th century there were numerous drinking places in the area ranging from inns, which offered accommodation & stabling, to common alehouses. The numbers continued to rise reaching a peak in the early 18th century. Some establishments were lost with the construction of Westminster Bridge in 1734-50 and others in 1807 when the area around New Palace Yard was cleared. There were large coaching inns and yards on the north side of Tothill Street and the Broadway, as shown on Roques map of 1746.

ROYAL HORTICULTURAL HALLS
Founded in 1804 the Horticultural Society operated from various locations including South Kensington. The old hall in Vincent Square was designed by E J Stebbs and built in 1904. The new hall behind this was designed by Murray Easton and built in 1927-8.

ROYAL AQUARIUM
Opened in 1876 this building had it all; a winter garden, music, exhibitions, lectures, gymnastic displays, performing lions, billiards, a reading room, restaurants AND Professor & Mrs Beckwith & family demonstrating undressing, smoking & eating 2 sponge cakes under water! Not a financial success the site was to become that of the Methodist Central Hall.

 

TRANSPORT

TRAMS
The American George Train laid an early horse-drawn tramway along Victoria Street from the Abbey in 1861. However the 14" raised rails were harzardous to other traffic and it did not last long.

VICTORIA STATION
The Grosvenor railway bridge, which was the first to cross the Thames in 1860 enabled the London Brighton & South Coast Railway to extend its line from Battersea in 1862. Tracks were laid along what had been a canal with the station occupying a former basin. The hotel built as part of this was in the French style. When the London Chatham & Dover came to Victoria its station was much plainer. Although the division between the two stations has been removed inside you can still see two distinct buildings from the outside.

LONDON TRANSPORT HQ
This cruciform building with a 175' tower was designed by Charles Holden in 1929. It is decorated with sculptures depicting Day & Night by Jacob Epstein and Winds by Henry Moore, E Aumonier, Eric Gill and others. The ground floor is lined with Travertine and has shops as well as providing an entrance to St James's Park tube station.

FIND OUT MORE

BOOKS
The inspiration for this walk was the book ‘Westminster & Pimlico Past’ by Isobel Watson (Historical Publications) which has lots of illustrations. There is also a booklet ‘Byways of Westminster’.
Alan Godfrey produce reprints of old OS maps (about £2.20 each) – Westminster is available for 1869 & 1894. A group from the archives researched 'One on Every Corner - a history of some Westminster pubs'. Areas covered include the Devil's Acre, around the Abbey and Tothill Street. These and other local publications are on sale at Westminster Archives (see below).
The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster by Bradley & Pevsner.

ARCHIVES
Housed in a purpose-built building with a spacious search room at 10 St Anns Street SW1P 2DE. Tel 020 7641 5180. Open Friday & Saturday 10am – 5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 10am – 7pm. Records held include those of the Watney Coombe Reid Brewery (see INDUSTRIES). The archive has a collection of over 200 letters telling the story of Adeline Cooper and her work with the poor of 'Devil's Acre' (see EDUCATION). These have been conserved and microfilmed (Acc 2259). [
more info] [website]

BOOTH
The notebooks and poverty maps compiled by Charles Booth are available on a
website

MAPS
See my
webpage for links to online maps including Rocque

VISITS
The Methodist Central Hall is open daily [
website]. Some of the buildings of Westminster School can be viewed from College Garden which is open to the public on Tuesdays - Thursdays 10-6 (summer) & 10-4 (winter). See link below for other places on the routes.


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