19th & 20th Century History of the Phoenix Garden site
An untitled watercolour by F. Calvert and dated 1886.
On the right of the painting (the present site of the end of the garden adjoining Flitcroft Street) the artist shows the Georgian houses that once stood at the end of Stacey Street. The view is towards Flitcroft Street and you can just see on the left of the picture a building which still stands today. This is Shelton ’s Charity School built with money that the vestryman William Shelton left in his will of 1672. This school opened in 1815, after the original parish-run school that was founded with his money in Parker’s Lane had to close due to spiralling costs. The remainder money was allowed to accumulate and was eventually used to found the charity school in located here.
Situated behind the cart is an 18th century courtyard called Eight Bells Yard. This lies behind the red gate at the end of the Phoenix Garden , today known as Book Mews. For centuries this site was occupied by the main leper hospital residential building, called the Mansion Place or Capital House. In 1539, after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry Vlll, the property was given by the crown to Lord Lisle (John Dudley) and it became his private residence. It became known as Dudley House and was the dwelling of the Duchess, Lady Alicia Dudley until her death in 1669. The mansion then became the property of the notorious Duke of Wharton. The house and its garden were demolished soon after with the building of Denmark Street, which was developed in the 1680’s.
World War II
World War ll bomb damage to the east side of Stacey Street.
The 9th of October 1940 plays a big part in the history of the Phoenix Garden. That evening a number of bombs fell in the vicinity, chiefly at the back of St. Giles-in-the-Fields church and on the corner of Stacey and New Compton Street (where the present garden building is sited). The houses on the east side of Stacey Street (the site of our garden) were badly damaged, whilst there was a direct hit to No. 62 New Compton Street ( Phoenix garden building).
The buildings here date from around 1775 when there was great rebuilding of the houses in the area, especially in Stidwell Street named after an early landowner called Sir Richard Stiddolph. In 1775 this street was renamed New Compton Street and we can presume the houses in the above photograph were built around the same time. Stacey Street was originally built in the 17 th century and known as Brown’s Gardens - Brown was a local gardener who rented a plot on the edge of the churchyard. However the name Stacey comes from the earlier 16 th century when the street was just a footpath, for here James Stacey owned two houses on either side of the track. In 1878 the street was renamed after this former landowner.
Early in the last century and in the middle of this stretch of street (roughly the middle of the photograph) was No.7A, where in 1916 there was situated a motor engineering business belonging to Francis Ram. In the Post Office London Directory of 1920, the business was still here under the title of Stacey Street Engineering Works Ltd. Just before the bombs destroyed this street of residential and business properties in 1940, No.7A belonged to Edward James and was a motor car garage. At this time and a little further up the street at No. 9 was a printer called P.G. Savage & Son. Both of these businesses became history on that fateful night.
Showing the clearance of the bombed Stacey Street site.
This photograph was taken on the 13th February 1941 and shows the clearance of the entire east side of Stacey Street, which is now the site of the Phoenix Garden . This bombsite was used as a car park by the British National Car Parks until 1984 when the Phoenix Garden was established by the Covent Garden Open Spaces Association.
Looking west up New Compton Street, dated 3rd September 1941
This picture is taken outside the present site of the Phoenix Garden building looking up New Compton Street towards Shaftesbury Avenue. It illustrates the extensive damage caused to the Georgian houses and businesses on New Compton Street by the World War ll bomb.
Further clearance work of the Stacey street bombsite, c. 1941
On the right of this photograph you can see damage to the back of the properties of No.’s 1 and 2 Church Passage (now St. Giles Passage). These were on the Phoenix Garden site where the entrance gates are situated. St. Giles Passage is an ancient ‘churchway’ within the Leper Hospital site, leading into the churchyard.
The 1916 records of the Post Office London Directory show that at No.’s 1 and 2 were the De Vere Press Ltd (printers) and George Brown, who was a photographic printer. By 1921, the De Vere Press was still in business here but the wonderfully named Star Publicity Co. who were process engravers by trade, had taken up residence. There was a farrier called Harbour & Perrot throughout these years at No.3 Church Passage, whilst records from 1916 show that the theatrical furnishers, James & Gus Elms-Lesters were also based here. (The Elms Lesters Painting Rooms are still a local business situated at the end of the Phoenix Garden on Flitcroft Street). By 1921 they had gone elsewhere and William Jeffcoat, a bookbinder had moved in.
Behind the properties on Church Passage and New Compton Street lay another building within the present Phoenix Garden site called Saville House which existed until the early 1960’s.
By 1947, the Post Office Directory records show that no businesses were registered here although the buildings still stood and Ordnance Survey maps show that even as late as 1979, No.’s 1 and 2 St. Giles Passage and 58 – 60 New Compton Street were still standing, despite most of New Compton Street being cleared and used as car parks.
However, by the early 1980’s, all these buildings had been swept away and had become part of the history of our garden site.
Corner of St. Giles Passage and New Compton Street, date unknown.
This is a great photograph from before World War ll, showing the local inhabitants and houses which are now of course no more, for this is the New Compton Street front of the Phoenix Garden . No. 62 is on the left of the photograph, through to No. 58 on the extreme right of the picture.
What is curious is that there are no business signs on any of the properties, yet Post Office records show that many businesses were based here between the years 1916 to 1947 even after a bomb destroyed the end property, No. 62.
In 1916 and 1921 the Richards Brothers who were dairymen were based at No. 62, where the Phoenix Garden building is located now. At No. 60, the only local business to feature in the Post Office Directory dates from 1947 and was called K & M Electrical Co., who were electrical engineers. Before the war there were numerous little businesses here: by 1921, Abraham Mann was working at 61 New Compton Street as a boot and shoe repairer. John Carr was a saw maker located at No. 59 from 1916 until 1947 and he was joined at the same address in these later years by William Olding, a razor and scissor grinder.
At No. 58 in 1916, the grandly named British Hotel, Restaurant & Club Employees Society had their head office and George Sims was their Secretary; a merchant, Gordon Milliken Ltd. was also in business here in 1921 and records show that the premises had become Tony’s Restaurant by 1947. No. 58 also features as a distinct landmark on an old map of St. Giles dating from 1871. This shows that on this corner of New Compton Street and St. Giles Passage stood an old pub called the Globe. Today if you look upon the ground on this street corner outside the garden you can see the remains of mosaic flooring from the doorway of the public house.
Although the No. 62 corner building of Stacey Street and New Compton Street was destroyed in 1940, No. 61 next door lasted until the early 1960’s. The remaining houses on this stretch can still be found on an Ordnance Survey map of 1979. They were finally demolished in the early 1980’s to make way for the Phoenix Garden .
( F. Calvert print and all photos © Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre
Reproduced by kind permission of Richard Knight )