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St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex

Historical Description

Martin-in-the-Fields, St, a parish in Middlesex. It forms a compact portion of the metropolis, lies around Charing Cross, 1½ mile WSW of St Paul's, and adjoins the Thames above and below the Charing Cross railway bridge. It contains Charing Cross railway station, Cbaring Cross branch of the head post office of London W.C., and numerous receiving post offices and postal pillar-boxes under London W.C. and London S.W. Acreage, 286; population, 14,616. In 1851 the population was 24,640, but each succeeding census since has shown a gradual decrease. This arises partly from the demolition of houses for the making of new streets and partly from a change in the nature of the property. Some chief features are Buckingham Palace, St James' Palace, St James' Park, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross railway station, the National Gallery, several theatres, and numerous clubs, mansions, and public offices; but these, together with local historical events, &c., will be found noticed in the article London.

The original church of St Martin was built in 1222, when it stood literally "in the fields," and had till 1535 the status of a chapel of ease to St Margaret It was then formed into a parish, which stretched from St Mary-le-Strand to Kensington, and from the river to Oxford Street, comprising all the parishes of St Paul (Covent Garden), St James (Piccadilly), St Anne (Soho), and St George (Hanover Square). The church served about the year 1680 for a population of about 40,000; and was then surrounded by narrow alleys, popularly called the Bermudas or Caribbee Islands, and densely inhabited by a lawless people whom Richard Baxter described as " living like Americans without hearing a sermon for many years." The present church was built in 1721-26, after designs by Gibbs at a cost of £36,892, measures 140 feet in length, 75 in width, and 45 in height; has a noble Corinthian portico 65 feet wide, modelled after that of the Pantheon at Rome; is surmounted by a well-proportioned but heavy steeple, restored in 1842 after having been struck by lightning; and has an interior so constructed as not easily to admit of any monument. Portraits of George I. and Gibbs are in the vestry, and the remains of the following persons were buried in the vaults either of the old church or of the present-Nell Gwynne, Secretary Coventry, Attorney-General Sir John Davies, the Hon. Robert Boyle, the miniature painter Hilliard, the painter Paul Vansomer, the painter and musician N. Laniere, the painter Dobson, the Greek scholar Stanley, Lord Mohun, the dramatist Farquhar, Jack Sheppard, the sculptor Roubiliac," Athenian " Stuart, and the great surgeon John Hunter; but the remains of Hunter were removed hence in 1859 to Westminster Abbey. Archbishops Tenison and Lamplugh, and bishops Z. Pearce and Lloyd, were amongst the vicars. The Charing Cross Hospital dates from 1831, was built after designs by Burton in 1841, and at the census of 1891 had 210 inmates. The Ophthalmic Hospital in Chandos Street was founded in 1816 by Sir W. Waller, and at the census of 1891 had thirty-seven inmates. St George's Barracks is within the parish, and at the census of 1891 had 324 inmates. See also LONDON.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Middlesex is online.