Squashed in between Southwark’s tall modern buildings is a peculiar survivor, a 320-year old house.
The house owes its origins to property developers, James Price and John Morgan, who secured a lease (copyhold) on the farmland in this part of town just over 300 years ago and started building houses along a road that already existed at the time.
In around 1700, they had built houses and were covering up the open sewers, and on a side passage, built five houses by 1702/03. Of these, one survives, this one in fact on Hopton Street.
Hopton Street has had several names. It shows up in William Morgan’s 1682 map as Green Walk, was renamed Holland Street in the late 19th century, gaining its current name of Hopton Street, probably in 1938 as that’s the earliest reference I can find to it.
The road name originates from Hopton’s Estate, which is today the Hopton Gardens Almshouses. It’s not just the street name that changed — as 61 Hopton Street was 9 Green Walk, then 61 Hopton Street, and now 67 Hopton Street, having been recently renumbered as part of the huge Bankside Lofts development that surrounds it.
The house is freestanding on three sides, and the space alongside it used to be known as Knight’s Court, after Edward Knight who bought the lease to the land in 1720. The lease passed through many owners over the centuries, and although the other houses in Knights Court have long since been demolished, this house remains intact.
It’s actually quite odd how it survived when the rest were torn down, and it’s not as if the house was in a nice area, as this part of London was heavily industrialised and the house would have been surrounded by factories and warehouses for about 200 years of its life.
It was restored in 1947, and was known then as Nell Gwynn’s Old Home, with the unfounded claim that she may have stayed there, along with Sir Christopher Wren and Mary Shelly, although presumably not at the same time. We’ll overlook the fact that Nell Gwyn died long before the house was built as being annoyingly inconvenient.
It’s now Grade II listed, so protected from being demolished though – a peculiar ancient house resolutely refusing to go away and sticking out like a sore thumb from the modern developments around it.
Long may it continue to do so.