Named for its location on the bank of the Thames, the Strand leads outside the City of London from Temple Bar through what was formerly the Duchy of Lancaster to Charing Cross in what was once the city of Westminster. There were three main phases in the evolution of the Strand in early modern times: occupation by the bishops, occupation by the nobility, and commercial development. When the Thames served as the main means of transportation, bishops lived in country houses along the rough road known as the Strand so that they could be near Westminster. Their country houses were large quadrangles situated on the bank of the Thames. Desiring to be closer to court, the nobility gradually displaced the bishops as occupants of these houses. Especially with the construction of the New Exchange in 1609, the Strand became increasingly commercial as merchants set up shop where they could attract the business of the nobility. As the Strand developed commercially, the nobility left, many of the great houses were torn down, and coffee houses and coaches appeared (Borer 158; Holmes 6, 91; Stow 2:393).
The first of the great houses west from Temple Bar was Leicester House. Formerly the country house of the bishops of Exeter, Leicester House was owned successively by William Lord Paget, Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester, who rebuilt the house, and the Earl of Essex, who was executed for treason under Elizabeth I (Borer 156; Holmes 90–91; Stow 2:393–4).
In 1549, bishops’ lodgings, a parish church, and an inn of chancery called Chester’s Inn or Strand Inn were razed, and Somerset House was erected by Edward Duke of Somerset, uncle and lord protector to Edward VI. Elizabeth I also lived here before she became queen. Although Somerset House was maintained as a palace, it was rarely used by the royals and was handed over to the government in 1775 (Borer 156; Stow 2:394–95).
Russell House and Covent Garden
Formerly the Bishop of Carlisle’s inn, Russell House was owned by John Russell, Earl of Bedford. Across the Strand, the abbots of Westminster owned acres of land where excess produce from their orchards was sold. People from nearby villages began to take their own produce there to sell it. In 1552, the Earl of Bedford took possession of this unauthorized market known as Covent Garden. In the 1630s, the Russell family hired Inigo Jones to design the piazza (Borer 158–59; Stow 2:393).
Durham House and the New Exchange (Britain’s Burse)
West of Ivy Lane, which marked the border between the Duchy of Lancaster and Westminster, stood Durham House. Initially built for the bishops of Durham,the house was eventually owned by principal secretary to the monarch and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Sir Robert Cecil. Durham House became the site of Cecil’s New Exchange, also named Britain’s Burse by James I at the opening ceremony in 1609. A rival to the Royal Exchange in London, the New Exchange in Westminster drew London merchants outside the jurisdiction of the City where they could cater to the wealthy (Borer 157; Stone 96–97, 100, 103; Stow 2:400).
See also: Chalfant 169-71.
- Borer, Mary Cathcart. The City of London: A History. New York: McKay, 1977.
- Chalfant, Fran C. Ben Jonson’s London: A Jacobean Placename Dictionary. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1978.
- Holmes, Martin. Elizabethan London. London: Cassell, 1969.
- Stone, Lawrence. Family and Fortune: Studies in Aristocratic Finance in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)