Rupert Street – after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, noted 17th century general and son of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I.
Cutting across Shaftesbury Avenue
from Chinatown up into Soho, Rupert Street was named in 1676 after Prince Rupert of the Rhine: the nephew of King Charles I
. Rupert was a charismatic figure who rode into battle with his pet poodle.
Between the site of Panton Square and Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street
) lay a plot of ground bounded on the south by the lane leading from the Military Yard to Piccadilly
(now Coventry Street
), and on the north by Knaves’ Acre. A map of 1664 marks the whole plot as ’parish Land’.
After the Restoration the whole of the Bailiwick of St. James, of which this ground formed a part, was leased by Queen Henrietta Maria and her trustees to the trustees of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans. In 1676 Charles I
I granted the freehold of the plot to St. Albans in exchange for the surrender by the latter of his leasehold interest in Nell Gwynne’s house in Pall Mall
. The ground was then described as a long slip of three and a half acres divided into three parts called ’the lay soyle veseys garden and Watts Close’.
The Earl of St. Albans appears to have immediately disposed of the ground for building, for ’some grant or conveyance’ was made to John Duckett, John Rowley and Dr. Nicholas Barbon. The layout consisted of a straight street, now Rupert Street, which was connected to Colman Hedge Lane by two narrow side streets.
Ogilby and Morgan’s map indicates that the development of the estate was finished by 1681–2. By this time Duckett, Rowley and Barbon had sold the freehold of some of the houses to Sir Anthony Deane for £3600. By 1687 the latter had sold this property to Richard Bourne, by whose family much of it was rebuilt in the 1720s and 1730s.
In 1720 Strype described Rupert Street as ’a pretty handsome, well built Street’, but both the ratebooks and a number of enrolments in the Middlesex Land Register indicate that much rebuilding took place in the 1720s and 1730s. The White Horse public house at the corner of Archer Street
has existed under that name since at least 1739.
As originally laid out Rupert Street came to an end at the northern boundary of the Earl’s estate. Its extension (as a footway only) to Brewer Street
took place in 1873–4 at the instigation of the St. James’s vestry, assisted by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The formation of Shaftesbury Avenue
a few years later involved the demolition of a number of buildings in the central part of the street. None of the present buildings in Rupert Street to the north of Shaftesbury Avenue
dates from before 1880, but to the south there are traces of early eighteenth-century residential buildings, early nineteenth-century shops and late nineteenth-century hotels and restaurants.