The architectural writer Giles Worsley (no relation of Dr Lucy Worsley) wrote'Witnesses to the City's Wealth: the Plight of
nos.57-59 Mansell Street' in Country Life
179 (1986), which is worth quoting in full as tribute to his work (he
died prematurely ten years later) and by way of background:
East End of London must once have had some of the finest domestic
architecture in London, but, outside Spitalfields, little of it
remains. Before the advent of the railways, the city was home as well
as workplace for many of the richest men in the country, and their
hosues must have been as imposing as most of those built by the
aristocracy in the West End. But whereas the West End houses
always remained fashionable, and so have survived, the East End
houses sank into the depths of poverty in the 19th century, and have
almost all been replaced by offices or warehouses. It is particularly
important, therefore, that two of the finest mid-18th-century houses
in London, nos.57-59 Mansell Street, just north of the Tower, should
be saved. [Right, today - not his original illustrations]
Mansell Street was laid out by the Leman family, a typical example of how a cadet branch of a gentry family came to London, made its fortune in trade, produced a sheriff and Lord Mayor of London, bought land in the country, first as an investment and then as a seat, became high sheriffs and MPs in the country, and eventually gave up all direct links with the City to return to being country gentlemen. Sir John Leman, who was the first to make his fortune in the City, was Lord Mayor in 1616. Among the land he bought was the manor of Barnes or Goodmansfields on the eastern outskirts of London. Childless, he left the bulk of his estate, including his London property, to his youngest nephew William, who was made a baronet in 1665 and increased his share of Goodmansfields by marrying Rebecca Prescot.
It was probably his son, the second Sir William, who died in 1701, who first laid out Goodmansfields, including Mansell Street. The exact date when he did so is unclear, hut it must have been between 1682, when William Morgan's map shows Goodmansfields undeveloped, and 1700, when Morden, Lea and Browne's map shows it covered with housing. Just outside the City boundaries, on a bread street that had not then been extended at its two ends to become the busy thoroughfare it is today,. Mansell Street must have attracted some rich tenants; certainly, many of the building plots were much wider than usual.
One of the original double-fronted houses is known from a 19th-century photograph in the National Monuments Record. Six bays wide with the end bays projecting forward as at Schoenberg House in Pall Mall, it has a considerable dignity. By the 1740s, however, its wooden modillion cornice, hipped roof, flush sash windows and projecting closets must have seemed very old-fashioned. According to Neve's Builder's Dictionary of 1736: 'Few houses ... last longer than the ground lease' [ed: a remark also quoted by Summerson]. This was the fate of the houses on the site of nos.57-59 Mansell Street. The original building lease was probably only 42 years, the old houses were torn down, and new, grander buildings took their place. They were not the only new houses in the street. In 1924 the Geffrye Museum received some very fine contemporary panelling from 63 Mansell Street, which was then being demolished. Highly architectural, with an elaborate cornice, it is the only other relic of the street's great days. Nos. 57-59 Mansell Street are exceptional in the elaboration of their façades. London terrace-houses, even the grandest, are normally very plain, and became more so as the 18th century progressed, The Mansell Street façades represent a trait often associated with City merchants' houses, being both rather old-fashioned in design compared to the West End, and more exuberant in their use of architectural motifs. The two houses were originally almost identical, but the years have taken their toll. Heavy stone piers, originally supported by iron railings, immediately distinguish them, setting them back from the street as if in their own courtyard. Behind the central piers lies the doorcase, with freestanding Doric columns supporting a broken pediment in front of a rusticated archway. The doorway is so wide that it needs double doors. The central bay breaks forward to emphasise the centre of the house, which is further distinguished by the stone architraves of the windows, and by the stone panels above and below the windows. One of these panels lies, in a distinctly Mannerist fashion, within the broken pediment of the doorcase, so that the areas of the window and the door interpenetrate. The ends of the houses are marked by a vertical band of channelled masonry, each floor is distinguished by an increasingly emphatic string-course, culminating in the cornice, and the windows are emphasised by stone keystones.
Today the two houses lie empty. Both have suffered terribly, no.57 having lost its ground-floor windows, no.59 its doorcase, ferns grow from the façades, and the brickwork pf the parapet is perilous. Internally little remains of the latter, but the former still retains most of its staircase and the panelling round the external walls, although the internal partitions have gone.
In January last year, the architects Treherne and Norman, Preston and Partners presented a planning application for the redevelopment of 57-59 Mansell Street and the neighbouring buildings. In their scheme, which had been under discussion with Tower Hamlets Council since 1982, only the façades of the two houses were to be preserved. When the framework of the scheme with the application for outline change of use was submitted, it was rejected by the council. Among other objections, the developers were told that they would have to retain the structure as well as the façades of the houses. The developers have lodged and appeal, believing the rejection to be unreasonable. They would prefer, however, to continue informal negotiations to produce a scheme that would be acceptable to both parties without the expense of an appeal. Tower Hamlets, anxious to preserve the houses, will accept their conversion into offices. Treherne and Norman have indicated that they are prepared to restore them. However, they feel that the resulting expense would be viable only if the rest of their scheme were accepted, and that to do so the council's requirements for the site, in particular over the provision of light industrial space, would have to be relaxed.
Developers and council are therefore agreed that the houses and their interiors can and should be saved. Careful conversion into offices is the only feasible way in which this can be done. The problem is to agree a formula for the whole site which would make this possible. The wealth of the 18th-century aristocracy has left its architectural mark throughout London and the country. Little remains, however, to remind us that the real wealth of Georgian England derived from trade. Nos. 57-59 Mansell Street are lone witnesses to the City's wealth, and for this reason they are among the most important surviving early 18th-century domestic buildings in London. They cannot be left to rot for want of a suitable scheme.
We beg most respectfully to approach your Lordship.
It has been our practice ever since the establishment of mail steam-ship communication between New York and Nassau, Bahamas, to ship general merchandize from London to New York for re-shipment to Nassau. Our consignments by the two last mail steamers from London, amounting to some thousand pounds in value, have been, and we believe still are, detained in New York by order of the Government of the United States, who refuse to allow them to be sent to their destination unless bonds are given that, after arriving at Nassau, the goods shall not be re-shipped to the Confederate States.We feel both ourselves and our correspondents at Nassau deeply aggrieved by this interdict, which appears to us tyrannical and unreasonable: for we affirm that when goods are sold in an open market, the vendor cannot possibly be called upon to be answerable for their final destination.
It is quite true that before the departure of our property, it was rumoured that the Government of the United States might possibly prevent the transhipment there of goods intended for Nassau, New Providence. But this was made known to us only after many of the goods in question were actually on board the steamer. We further assure your Lordship that we immediately examined our orders, and kept back every article which was at all likely of being destined for the Southern States, and were careful to forward only such goods as are commonly ordered for the Nassau market, and consumed in the port of Nassau and surrounding British Possessions.After all these precautions not to trench on the regulations of the United States, we find that, to the great loss and annoyance of the Nassau storekeepers and ourselves, our goods now lie impounded at New York.
With the utmost respect we entreat your Lordship's protection and interference in this matter. Should the remedy lie within your Lordship's province, we have the fullest confidence that we shall obtain immediate redress. Should there appear difficulties in the way, then, with equal respect and solicitude. we beg your Lordship kindly to point out to us our surest legal method of redress.
We have, &c. (signed) S. AND H. HARRIS
|[The vessels] coast along the banks and reefs where the water is shallow and [the sponges] are brought to the surface by hooked poles. The day's catch is spread out on the deck so as to kill the mass of animal life ...Then the spongers go ashore and build a pen or 'crawl' of stakes close to the water's edge, so that the action of the tide may wash away the black covering ...The sponges are strung upon small palmetto strips, when they are taken to Nassau to be sold in the sponge market. On the conclusion of the sale the sponges are taken to the packing yard where they are sorted, clipped, soaked in tubs of lime-water, and spread out to dry. They are then pressed by machinery into bales, containing 100 pounds, and in this state are shipped to either England or the United States.|
An efficient Out-door Assistant is required for a Country practice.
Diploma not absolutely essential, provided testimonials are otherwise
satisfactory. Liberal salary given. -
Address, C, care of S. and H. Harris, 27 Mansell-street, Goodman's-fields, London
THOMAS NORRIS AT YE
= Two carbines crossed ¼
WILLIAM PRESCOTT AT YE =
A sugar-loaf ½
HONEST NED SPENCER AT YE
= A roll of tobacco ½
|News from Goodman's Yard in the Mineries, Or, A Full and True Relation of a Most Horrid Murder: Committed by One Elizabeth Lillyman, who Stabbed Her Own Husband William Lillyman in the Left Pap, Neer the Nipple, with a Shoo-maker's Knife, Upon the 22 of June Instant, 1675, Whereof He Suddenly Died: for which Inhumane Fact She is Committed to Newgate, There to Remain Till Her Tryal at the Next Sessions : Being by the Coroners Jury Found Guilty of Petty Treason|