Exmouth Market

From: Survey of London: Volume 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville. Originally published by London County Council, London (2008):

“No. 23, the Exmouth Arms, (above, left of image) was rebuilt in a neoGeorgian style for the Camden Brewery Co. in 1915-16, by the Bedfordshire builders S. Redhouse & Son. The large lettered green-tile panel on the canted corner was altered following a takeover by Courage, perhaps in 1935…

Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer (above, right of image): A notable monument to Anglo-Catholic enthusiasm, this church was designed by J. D. Sedding and started in 1887-8. It remained incomplete until 1894-5 after Sedding’s death, when the (liturgically) east end was extended by his former assistant Henry Wilson…

Tea-gardens and other resorts grew up in this area from the late seventeenth century, and house-building began to take off in the second half of the eighteenth century, spreading as these attractions went into decline. Historically, the line of what is now Exmouth Market marks the division between this early house-building and the much more extensive development to the north that followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars. But while the two sides of the street were built up in different periods, they were topographically part of a continuum extending north over the rest of the old Spa Fields. There Wilmington Square, conceived in 1817, was the centrepiece of a collection of new streets…

…In 1816-21 the north side of the road was laid out and built up as a broadly uniform terrace to create Exmouth Street. Unlike those of Brayne’s Row these houses were designed to include shops, needed because this was to be the southern rim of the Northampton Estate’s large Spa Fields development of about 400 new houses. This project was all handled through an overall agreement and lease of 1817, the developer being John Wilson, a plumber and glazier who became a builder and let the ground on underleases. The name of the new street was chosen in 1816 to honour Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, who won a battle at Algiers that August to enforce a treaty abolishing Christian slavery, returning to England a hero…

The small open space at the west end of the street was one of the clearance sites left by the making of Rosebery Avenue. In 1898 the Corporate Property Committee of the London County Council recommended its sale to F. J. Chambers, who had taken on a number of small plots on either side of the road and built shops there. Instead the full council approved a lower offer from the Vestry, which had been trying to acquire the site for several years and now, with financial support from the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, wished to lay it out as open space with trees and seating. The banally named ‘Plot of Land’ was opened with some fanfare in February 1899.

A centrepiece was provided in the shape of a large iron ‘refreshment lamp’ installed by the Pluto Hot Water Syndicate Ltd. This lamp-cum-vending machine dispensed, for a halfpenny, a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa, or a quart of boiling water. It was not, however, a success, being removed in October of the same year.

…The creation of Rosebery Avenue in 1889-91 and subsequent rebuilding effectively destroyed this continuity, of which the only obvious relics today are the interrupted lines of Pine Street-Easton Street, Spafield Street-Yardley Street and Tysoe Street. The survival of Wilmington Square, and the building of much public housing, means that the area north of Rosebery Avenue is predominantly residential, belonging in its general character with that whole tranche of northern Clerkenwell between King’s Cross Road and upper St John Street…

Spas, tea gardens and all manner of places for pleasure and recreation once characterized Clerkenwell, and here there was a particular concentration from the early seventeenth century, peaking around 1740 and dying out by 1800. Through this period there was a shift from basic outdoor pursuits, on ground and water, to indoor diversions that appealed to more developed tastes. The entertainments were largely associated with the leisure time of London’s working population. Others, therefore, held them in low esteem…

Joseph Grimaldi, the actor and original pantomime clown, moved into this somewhat artistic milieu in 1818, to No. 56, where he remained until 1828. He arrived when the immediate area’s entertainment character had gone, and as the land to the north was being laid out as a sober suburb. But Grimaldi had local roots, his career following that of his father. He performed regularly at Sadler’s Wells as a child in the 1780s and 90s, lived in Penton Place (c. 1794-9), at No. 44 Penton Street (1799-1800), and after the death of his wife, at No. 4 Baynes Row. He later moved away from the area, but returned to Sadler’s Wells in 1818, having bought a share in the theatre. Disability forced him to stop performing in 1825. His last residence in 1835-7 was also local, at No. 22 Calshot Street. In 1938 the London County Council, failing to identify the Exmouth Market house, commemorated him with a plaque on the Calshot Street house, demolished in 1960. The present blue plaque at No. 56 Exmouth Market was put up by English Heritage in 1989…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s