Exmouth Market, EC1R

Road in/near City of London, existing between 1756 and now

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Road · City of London · EC1R ·

Exmouth Market, formerly Exmouth Street, is semi-pedestrianised - the location of an outdoor street market.

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.

Exmouth Market contains two of Clerkenwell’s outstanding architectural monuments: Tecton’s Finsbury Health Centre in Pine Street, and J. D. Sedding’s Church of the Holy Redeemer, opened in 1888. Also here is the principal historic records office for London, the London Metropolitan Archives in Northampton Road. Exmouth Market is the most important and characterful street in the neighbourhood, and the only one to preserve the scale and a significant amount of building fabric from its first development, begun in the 1760s. It is now largely pedestrianized, and a general absence of vehicles is one of the characteristics of this entire area.

Exmouth Market, ’now at the epicentre of trendy Clerkenwell’, is a busy commercial street, the present vitality of which arises from a regeneration project of the 1990s. This followed the decline of the working-class street market that had taken root here in the 1890s, alongside shops that had origins in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The street’s development history is complex, with distinct stories for the south and north sides.

It begins on the south side with Thomas Rosoman’s 99-year lease in 1756 of the Dog and Duck property (No. 26), which had 325 ft of frontage to the north. Joseph Brayne, the stonemason who may in the 1750s have been involved in the building of Rosoman’s Row, took a 90-year lease from Rosoman in 1763, and developed most of the frontage east of the tavern. Ten substantial houses were up by 1766, and immediately became known as Brayne’s Row (not to be confused with Baynes Row to the west). These all faced an open field, along with other new buildings to the east, at Nos 56 and 58 of 1765/6, the London Spaw, rebuilt on the corner in 1766-8, and four houses of 1768-9 on the site of Nos 64/68, built along with four others round the corner facing Rosoman Street. To the rear, smaller houses followed along Northampton Row about 1771.

To the west the first buildings on the site were known for a time as Spa Place. The Exmouth House site was first built up in the 1780s , as was Chapel Street (later Chapel Row), by a consortium of tradesmen led by Joseph Wood, carpenter, of St Sepulchre. The site of Nos 410 Exmouth Market was developed in 1789-90 by Samuel Gray, builder, and redevelopment of the western corner by Richard Parker, a City carpenter, followed in the 1790s. His buildings replaced, and were set back from the line of, a turnpike house on Coppice Row (Farringdon Road).

Between 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 (see Chapter X). 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 buildings of 1816-21 that were Nos 19 Exmouth Street were demolished in the 1860s for the building of the Metropolitan Railway’s eastern tunnel. They were rebuilt in 187/23, and demolished about 1890 to make way for Rosebery Avenue. Six shop-houses were built as Nos 11-21 Exmouth Street in 1817-19 in a speculation by Thomas Gooch, a Coppice Row watchmaker who had a hand in much of the development of the north side of Exmouth Street. The corner plot occupied by No. 23 Exmouth Street and No. 6 Spafield Street was first built up in 1817-19, with Thomas Wilson of Yardley Street as the builder, working under Gooch. The south end of Yardley Street was renamed Spafield Street in 1936, and No. 6 survives with a late nineteenth-century iron shopfront made to a patent design by F. J. Chambers; several of these were installed in other small shops close by fronting Rosebery Avenue. The corner shop-house (No. 23) became the Exmouth Arms beerhouse about 1863 and was subsequently redeveloped. The shop-houses at Nos 25-57 stand largely as built in 1817-21.

Main source: Search | British History Online
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