The History of 7a Laurence Pountney Hill
On Laurence Pountney Hill, a quiet corner of the City of London, a private house, former church and pretty garden can transport you back through the centuries.
The grade II listed 7a Laurence Pountney Hill was built in the late 17th century, around 1670.
But amazingly, the story of the construction goes back further, with the Medieval wall resting on a Roman wall. A City of London Archeology Trust has come to the conclusion that it dates from around 54AD. So 7a Laurence Pountney is on top of one of the earliest examples of Roman construction in London.
Today the house stands opposite the site of a church and an atmospheric passageway separates the church and the churchyard.
St Laurence Pountney was founded in the mid-12th century, but in a flagrant bit of forgery, the documents attempted to claim that the land was gifted in 1067, granted by King William I!
You can see on the 16th century copperplate map (below) that the passageway is fairly ancient and the church seems to have been separated from its churchyard from the very beginning. I’ve highlighted the church in yellow and churchyard in red.
Known by various names including St Laurence next the Thames and St Laurence in Candlewistrate, the addition of Pountney arrives in around 1332 thanks to Sir John de Pultneye.
John was a member of the Drapers Company but also dabbled in money lending. He rose to Lord Mayor, serving four terms in 1331, 1332, 1334 and 1336.
He used his money to support new building projects including a chantry chapel in St Laurence Church.
He died in 1349 and was buried in the Old St Paul’s and his tomb was destroyed (along with the rest of the cathedral) in the Great Fire of London. Today he is mentioned in a plaque recording some of the lost tombs.
By the 1360s the whole parish was known as St Laurence Pulteneye or Pountney. However, during the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church and the original house were totally destroyed.
The church wasn’t rebuilt and the parish was merged with St Mary Abchurch. Rebuilt by Wren in 1681, it still stands today.
It seems the churchyard remained as a burial ground but it’s unclear how well-used this was. By the 1851 Metropolitan Act (which banned all burials in central London) the churchyard had become the garden of 7a.
Post-fire Robert Hooke was one of the appointed City surveyors and had responsibility for this area. Sadly no records of this survive, meaning we can’t be sure of the exact date of rebuilding.
What is certain is that it was complete by 1675 because 7a (which I’ve circled in red) can been seen on the 1676 map by J. Ogilby and W. Morgan.
So lived here?
In 1688 the house was leased to Samuel Clay, a gentleman and merchant and his widow was in residence until 1716.
From 1726 it was owned by Henry Blunt, son of a baronet who was married to Dorothy Nutt from Walthamstow. They had three sons here and made extensive changes to the house throughout the 18thc century as the son inherited the house and refurbished it in keeping with the latest interior fashions.
By the late 18th century it was owned by a Hop Merchant and a trapdoor in the pavement beside the shop front allowed bales of hops to be deposited into a basement.
You can see the shop front in this wonderful photo from 1945. Also, look closer and part of the pulley system can (incredibly!) still be seen near the shop door.
During the 19th century it was owned by the L’Anson family. Edward worked for the Commissioners of Sewers and supervised sewerage and drainage works in South London while his son (also Edward) worked with his father then became a successful architect, specialising in Italian-inspired office blocks including some work on St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
The house survived the Second World War by the narrowest margins, a bomb landed on the other side of Laurence Pountney Lane (site of 7a is circled in yellow).
By the late 20th century it was known as Rectory House and it received Grade II listed status in 1950.
After several refurbishments and use as office space, it was transformed into a private home and sold in 2007. From one website it was valued at just under £1million, which for such a historic property in the City seems like a steal!
The information in this post was mostly taken from this article by Nick Holder and Christopher Phillpotts, whose research was funded by the City of London Archeological Trust. You can read the full paper here.
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On Laurence Pountney Hill, a quiet corner of the City of London, a private house, former church and pretty garden can transport you back through the centuries. The grade II listed 7a Laurence Pountney Hill was built in the late 17th century, around 1670. But......