The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 19 From Charing Cross To St Paul's Cathedral

St Mary Le Strand

Previous - Next

In the middle of the Strand, almost opposite the entrance to King's College, stands the finely-proportioned church of St. Mary le Strand, with an Ionic portico and graceful steeple, built by James Gibbs in 1714, near the site of an earlier church (pulled down by the Protector Somerset) of which Thomas Becket was once rector. The space in front was the site of the famous Maypole (134 feet high), removed in 1718 and bought by Sir Isaac Newton as the stand for a telescope at Wanstead House. John Dickens, father of the novelist, was married in the present church on June 13th, 1809. To the right, opposite St. Mary's, diverges (through an archway, No. 113A), Strand Lane, at No. 5 in which is an ancient Roman Bath, one of the few remains of the Roman period in London (admission 6d.; 10-6, in winter 10.30-5). It is about 13 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 5 feet deep. The bricks used are small non-porous Roman bricks. The paving slabs of white marble were brought hither from a neighbouring bath, on the other side of the lane, built in 1588 by the Earl of Essex and destroyed in 1893. It is fed by a natural spring, the water of which probably comes from the old �Holy Well,� on the north side of the Strand. A little to the east of Strand Lane is the Aldwych Station of the Piccadilly Tube. The names of the next series of streets (all rebuilt and uninteresting), leading south from the Strand to the Thames Embankment � Surrey St., Norfolk St., Arundel St., and (beyond Milford Lane) Essex St.�commemorate the sites of the town-houses of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. Surrey and Norfolk (circa 1585-1646), and of Queen Elizabeth's favourite, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (1567-1601). In Essex House, described by Samuel Pepys as �large but ugly.� the Young Pretender stayed with Lady Primrose in 1750. George Sale (1680-1736), the translator of the Koran, and William Congreve (1669-1729), the dramatist, both died in Surrey St., and it was here that Voltaire visited Congreve. John Evelyn, the diarist, lodged in this street in 1696. In Norfolk St. Peter the Great lodged in 1698. William Penn (1644-1718) lived at No. 21, Coleridge (1772-1834) at No. 42, and Buckle (1821-62), the historian, and Miss Mitford (1787-1855) were also lodged here. Sir Roger de Coverley had quarters here (see Nos. 329 & 335 of �The Spectator�), and �Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings� were at �No. 81.� In Devereux Court, to the east of Essex Street, leading to New Court (Temple), is a bust of the Earl of Essex (on No. 20), supposed to be by C. G. Cibber and marking the site of the Grecian Coffee House (refaced), frequented by Addison, Steele, and Newton.