Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
St. John's House, Hoxton.
This ancient house, generally known by the name of the White House, , in the parish of St. Leonard, , in the county of Middlesex, is supposed to have been erected early in the reign of King James the , by Oliver, Lord St. John of Bletsoe, in the county of Bedford, and until within the last or years, there was a vane upon the top of the building, the fan of which was perforated with St. J O , which was remembered to have remained many years in the recollection of a very respectable inhabitant lately living in the neighbourhood.
The St. Johns, Lords of (Bletshoe) Bletsoe, are descended from Sir John St. John of Stanton St. John in the county of Oxford, who had the honour of knighthood conferred on him by King Henry VII, at the creation of his eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales. And from this Sir John, in lineal descent, was Oliver St. John, Esq. who by letters patent, bearing date , of Elizabeth, was advanced to the dignity of a baron of the realm, by the title of Lord St. John of Bletsoe; and in the of the same reign, was of the peers that sat in judgment on Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk; and dying in the of Elizabeth, was succeeded by his eldest son John, the baron of this title, who was of the peers that sat on the trial of Mary Queen of Scots; he died on the , and by his will ordered his body to be buried at Bletsoe, in such manner as his father was buried. He left issue by Catharine his wife, daughter to Sir William Dormer, of Ethorpe, in the county of Bucks, knight, sole daughter and heir, Anne, married to William Lord Howard of Effingham, eldest son to Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham. Dying without issue male, he was succeeded in the title by his brother, Oliver St. John, the Lord of Bletsoe, who married Dorothy, daughter and heir to John Read, of the county of Gloucester, Esq. by whom he had sons, and daughters, viz. Oliver, his successor; John, who died young; Anthony, Alexander, and Rowland, who became knights; and Henry, Beauchamp, and Dudley, which last died young; of the daughters, Elizabeth was married to Sir William Beecher; Margaret, to Sir Thomas Cheney; Judith, to Sir John Tompson; Anne, to Robert Charnock, Esq. and Catharine, Dorothy, and Martha, the younger, died unmarried.
The initial letters and date of the year on the vane, evidently point out this house to have been the residence of Oliver St. John, the Baron of Bletsoe, who died here in the year . Yet there is every reason to believe the building to be of much greater age, than that of the period of James I: it more nearly resembles the architecture of the reign of Henry VIII; and the present occupant, Mr. Tipple, has been informed by several persons, whom curiosity led to view the house, that it had only undergone a thorough repair in the year , when a new vane was put up; but that the erection of the building was at least of years prior date.
Oliver the eldest son of the preceding Baron was the Baron of Bletsoe, and in the of James I. was created Earl of Bolingbroke: he married Elizabeth, daughter and heir to William Paulet, of the county of Somerset, by whom he had issue sons; Oliver, his successor; Paulet, made knight of the Bath at the coronation of King Charles I; Francis, who died unmarried; and Anthony; also daughters; Elizabeth, who died young; Dorothy, married to John, Lord Rochford, eldest son of Henry, Earl of Dover; and Barbara, who died young. His Lordship was succeeded by Oliver his eldest son (called Lord St. John), who had been made knight of the Bath at the coronation of King Charles I; and bearing arms against the King in the battle fought near Kineton, , was there slain. He left issue by Arabella his wife, daughter to John, Earl of Bridgewater, daughters; Frances, married to Sir William Beecher, of Howbery in the county of Bedford; Elizabeth, to John Bennet, of Cotsbach, in the county of Leicester, Esq.; Arabella, to Sir Edward Wise, of Fidleham, in the county of Devonshire; and Dorothy, married to Francis Charleton of Apley, in the county of Salop, Esq. Dying without issue male, Oliver, son and heir to Sir Paulet St. John, knight of the Bath ( son to Oliver the Earl of Bolingbroke) by Elizabeth daughter and heir to Sir Rowland Vaughan, of the Spittle, near , in the suburbs of London, succeeded his grandfather in the title; and having married Lady Frances, daughter of William, Duke of Newcastle, died without issue, -. He was succeeded by Paulet St. John, his brother and heir, who dying unmarried, on the , the earldom became extinct; and the barony of Bletsoe devolved on Sir Andrew St. John, of Woodford in the county of Essex, of the descendants of Sir Rowland St. John, son of Oliver, the Baron of Bletsoe.
The family of St. John were extremely numerous. Sir Alexander St. John ( son of the nobleman that died at Bletsoe in ) with a numerous succession of relatives were buried in the church of St. Leonard, , as appears by the parish registers: and on the north side, near the east end of the old church, was a handsome white marble monument adorned with pilasters, entablature, pediment, and Cupids, with the following inscription:
Sir Alexander St. John, knight, son to the right honourable Oliver St. John, Baron of Bletsoe, caused this monument to be erected in memory of his late faithful and truly virtuous consort, the Lady Margaret St. John, daughter of John Trye, of Hardwick in the county of Gloucester, Esq. whose body lyeth near unto this place interred, expecting a glorious resurrection. Aetat. , Ob. .
The above Sir Alexander St. John was elected to parliament for the town of Bedford in the , eighteenth, and years of James I, and of Charles I, and knighted in , with his brother Anthony. His lady was the widow of Thomas Draynor, Esq. (buried at , ) and married to her husband Sir Alexander St. John, the . The widow Draynor is noticed among the benefactors to the parish of St. Leonard, , but the amount is not specified; it was added to the sums given by Mrs. Tice; which were laid out , with other benefactions, amounting in all to the sum of , in purchasing of Richard Middleton, tenements, and acres of land (the Land of Promise, in ) as a parish estate. These premises were leased out , to H. Hempson, for years at per annum; to Edward Hunt, , for years, at per annum; to Charles Garret, , for years, at the same rent; and lastly to Samuel Beighton, from Lady Day , for years at per annum.
Ellis, in his History and Antiquities of , informs us, that the house in , inhabited by Mr. Pearson, has long been called Spital House; and in the early part of the last century was the dwelling of the celebrated Viscount Bolingbroke. That it was the same that was inhabited by Sir Rowland Vaughan is beyond a doubt; but whether it afterwards descended to Lord Bolingbroke cannot be affirmed with any certainty. Soon after , the estate passed by purchase, from the St. Johns of Bletsoe, to the Tillard family, in which it still continues.
House, , was kept from about the years to as a boarding school, by the father of the learned George Baddeley, D.D. And from this gentleman it descended successively to Messrs. Barnes, Smith, Hills, Burrows, and Tipple, the latter of whom has it at present in use, as an asylum for paupers farmed out by various parishes.
The interior of this once noble mansion still exhibits the rank, wealth, and consequence of its former inhabitants. An entrance hall of no mean dimensions, divides the gronnd apartments, consisting of rooms. The room on the right is at present () converted into a sitting parlour, in the best state of repair and neatest possible order; the wainscot is composed of an oaken panelled partition; and a very spacious curiously wrought mantlepiece, with carved festooned ornaments of fruit and flowers of solid oak, finishes this striking feature of the room, the whole of which is well painted, grained, and varnished. The room behind this is appropriated to the use of delivering bread and other necessaries to the different inmates that are here accommodated. The rooms on the left of the entrance (once decorated with carved heads of cherubim, some of which are still remaining) were formerly united, and in use as a chapel for the family, and where, as in all similar establishments, morning and evening prayers were regularly read; but they are now solely in use as a receptacle for lumber. Fronting the entrance is a noble and spacious staircase, with richly carved bannisters and other decorative ornaments, exhibiting the splendour and magnificence of its founder. Indeed it appears, neither expense nor pains were spared to render this house desirable to a -rate family of distinction.
A very curious door of oak, of great weight and thickness, opens into a back court, spacious and convenient, in which are some out-buildings of modern erection, that serve as wards and sitting rooms for those who are on this establishment. The back entrance to House was ornamented with brick pillars and gates, in a similar manner to those that at present embellish the front. The ground and gardens must have formerly been very extensive; the remains of an ancient arched gateway, at the extremity of a field behind the house extending as far as , being remembered to exist within these few years, and which was probably the entrance to a paddock appertaining to the other grounds and gardens.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.