On 9th February 1499, John, Viscount Welles, half-uncle of Henry VII and half-brother of Margaret Beaufort, died at his home, Pasmer’s Place, in Saint Sithes Lane, London. I have read that he died of pleurisy, but I do not know if that is true. Welles was also the husband of Lady Cicely/Cecily/Cecyll/Cecille Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV and sister of Henry’s queen, Elizabeth of York. Viscount and Viscountess Welles were very well connected indeed, and yet lived in a little-known street in the City of London, only remnants of which now survive. A large portion of the middle of the lane was demolished for the formation of Queen Victoria Street.
Below is a map of the area in the second half of the 16th century. The so-called AGAS map – Civitas Londinum – is a bird’s-eye view of London first printed from woodblocks. So this is well over a century after the death of Viscount Welles in 1499.
At present the street is known as Sise Lane, E.C.4, off Queen Victoria Street, and the Green Man pub stands on the corner. It has had many names over the centuries: “Seint Sythes lane,” 1401 (Ct. H.W. II. 351). “Seintsithes lane,” 1438 (ib. 484). “Seint Sydes lane,” 1439 (ib. 486). “Sythen Lane,” 1544 (L. and P. H. VIII. XIX. Pt. 2, p.316). “St. Sithes lane,” 1574 (Lond. I. p.m. II. 177). “St. Size Lane” (O. and M. 1677, and Strype, 1720 and 1755). “Syth’s Lane” (Rocque, 1746). “Sythes lane,” vulg. “Size lane” (P.C. 1732). All the names are believed to refer to St Osyth, about whom you may read a little at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osgyth.
Here below is a view of Sise Lane as it is today, courtesy of Google Maps.
So what do we know of the St. Sithe’s Lane of the past? And why was it an apparently sought after address? I mean, even then royalty did not live just anywhere.
First of all, the lane is in Cordwainer Ward. For more information on this see:-
But does anything at those sites enlighten us as to why royalty would wish to live there? No. Not to me, anyway.
So, to delve a little more. My amateur research unearthed that the Welles residence, Pasmer’s Place, might very well have acquired its name from one John Pasmer, a member of the Skinner’s Company and of the Calais Staple. Skinners resided in the lane over the years, and in nearby Budge Row, so why should he not as well? Or someone in his family? He dealt in fells and furs, and was active during the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. Perhaps the mansion was his residence at first, but then he chose to live elsewhere and rent out his luxurious pad in St Sithe’s Lane. If this is so, then he acquired illustrious tenants.
Above is the lane in a later century, when it is called St Size Lane. What interests me is that there appear to be at least three very large properties there. The legend of the map states that unnumbered courts or alleys are merchants’ houses, inns or places of no name. My hope is that the one at bottom left, with the garden behind it, might be Pasmer’s Place. OK, the Great Fire might have changed everything, and the garden might be that of Bucklersbury House (as suggested in the London Topographical Society’s 1979 volume of ‘The A to Z of Elizabethan London’), but it still could be the Welles residence. Don’t rain on my parade by proving it isn’t. Please.
Below, an earlier map of the 1560s is overlaid by the present-day site of Bucklersbury House, and lo! The garden was there then as well, so it wasn’t a later addition. Yes, yes, it still might be Bucklersbury House, but it was there about sixty years after John Welles’s death, and might have been there during the time he and Cicely were in residence.
The following is from Inquisitions 1592, pages 150-171. It may have nothing to do with Pasmer’s Place, but it is a tantalising thought:
“…So seised, the said Sebastian made his will in November, 1591, as follows [here given in English]: I give to my wife Jane Briskett all my lands and tenements in St. Sythes Lane, being 6 houses in numbers, the one in occupation of Peter Van Lore, jeweller, the great messuage house in the occupation of [blank], the other tenements in the tenures of [blank]: all the said premises to remain until the marriage of my only daughter and child Elizabeth Bruskett to my said wife…”
“… The 6 messuages in St. Sythes lane are held of the Queen in free burgage, and are worth per ann., clear, £5 10s . . . Chan. Inq. P. m. vol. 232, No. 9.”
Of course, “the great messuage house” might not be anything exciting at all, let alone Pasmer’s Place. And “blank” might have been a very ordinary, unremarkable person indeed!
Various professions and manufacturers have been situated in the lane over the centuries, so it was far from being purely residential. Several Members of Parliament have resided there, as well as an Architect and Surveyor to the Corporation of London. A publisher of pocket books was located at number 18, and at another property an artists’ colourman and member of the Wax Chandler’s Company manufactured and sold artists’ paints. A number of solicitors were to be found in Sise Lane, as was a metalworker and inventor. Wine merchants and their warehouses, tailors, wax chandlers and a white-lead manufacturer, all occupied premises in Size Lane at one time or another. Oh, and royalty too, of course.
The church of St. Antholin’s stood on the north side of Budge Row, on the corner of Sise Lane. It originally dated from the late 12th century, but was then destroyed in the Great Fire, as was the rest of the area, of course. It was rebuilt by Wren, and in 1829 the top of the spire was sold for £5 to a printer named Robert Harrild, who had it erected on his property, Round Hill House in Sydenham, now London S.E.26. It is still there today, amid modern houses.
But, of course, the history of this part of London goes way back further than the mediaeval period, a 3rd Century Temple of Mithras having been discovered in the 1950s during excavations for the Bucklersbury House that has just been pulled down again, to be rebuilt once more. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jan/19/roman-temple-mithras Below is a picture of the beautiful sculptured head of the god Mithras that was found at the site.
Another interesting tale related to much earlier times is contained in the following picture:
So, Sise Lane has a long and venerable history, and somewhere along the way, in the 15th century, a king’s daughter and a king’s uncle were married and lived there in a mansion called Pasmer’s Place. Were they happy together? I cannot answer that, of course, but he left everything to her in his will, and called her “my dere beloved lady and wife Cecille”, and she was said to be distraught when he died and she had to send urgent word to the king, who was her brother-in-law and John Welles’s half-nephew. This all sounds as if, at the very least, they were contented together.
As a final snippet, Sise Lane can be connected with those who sailed for the New World in the Mayflower in 1620:
“A number of the ‘Mayflower Planters’ and close friends, such as Brewster, Hopkins, Rogers, Southworth, Mullins, Martin, Carver, Cushman, Robinson, Bradford, Allerton and others, were frequent visitors in 1619 at Sir Thomas Smith’s house in Philpott Lane, and at Sir Edwin Sandy’s house near ‘Aldersgate’. This was in or near the famous ‘Duke Place’, and, of course, during the final decision in 1620, they were callers at Mr. Ferrar’s in St. Sithe’s Lane.”
I really cannot picture what Sise Lane looked like back then. It has even changed since 1982 (see below, a photograph from Flickr by Tim@SW2008) so picturing it half a millennium ago is quite a leap. We can all think of it as part of romantic Merrie Olde London, of course, but reality was probably very different. I’ll keep my rose-tinted glasses, however. Why spoil things for myself?