The house adjoining English Martyrs to the west appears to have origins in the 1730s as a replacement of a house of the 1680s the lease of which would have run to 1745. In the 1980s it retained a column-on-vase-baluster closed-string staircase of early eighteenth-century character. It was evidently refronted and raised a storey in the early nineteenth century. The house was perhaps built by William Simon Youd (d. 1754), a plasterer and member of the Skinners’ Company, who moved from the west side of Mansell Street to live in it from 1735 till his death. He then held leases of four other houses on Prescot Street, including Nos 7, 9 and 10. His widow, Elizabeth Youd (d. 1757) was followed by John Milward, a distiller. James Montgomery (d. 1793), a ship owner and merchant who traded with Virginia, was resident from around 1775. By 1790 until after 1800 Solomon Spier, a jeweller and merchant, had the house. Thomas Springford (_c._1776–1856), who owned slum-court property off Little Prescot Street, held it from 1841 to his death.1
The freehold of No. 30 was acquired by the Oblates in 1879, soon after the completion of English Martyrs. Six years later the property was in use as a lodging house. It attracted interest owing to a young lodger, who identified himself as James Gilbert Cunningham, a dock labourer arrested in connection with a Fenian plot to bomb the Tower of London. Police found ‘three copies of United Ireland stuffed up the chimney’. The premises were described: ‘No. 30 is a tenement of four floors, kept by Miss Cannon, proprietor of a Book Depository, pamphlets, &c, being displayed in the windows of the apartment on the ground floor, which is also used as a sitting-room by the lodgers. Of these there are several, but, owing to the exclusiveness which the inhabitants of London cultivate, very little attention is paid to one another’s movements.2
The church undertook alterations and additions in 1908, with Crisp, Fowler & Co. as builders, and minor war damage precipitated further work in 1951. A two-storey rear extension followed in 1979 after which, with renovation by M. C. Brickwork, builders, and the provision of access to the church, the house became the presbytery to English Martyrs.3
British History Online, Four Shillings in the Pound Assessments, 1693–4: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), Land Tax Returns; COL/CHD/FR/02/0480–7; MDR1753/4/411; MDR1746/2/405; Collage 119538: Ancestry: The National Archives, PROB11/807/63; PROB11/830/21: Public Advertiser, 14 May 1760, p.3: True Briton, 27–29 Aug 1771, p.3; 8 Feb 1793, p.4: General Evening Post, 24–26 Oct 1771, p.1: Post Office Directories ↩
Daily Telegraph, 28 Jan 1885, p.5, information kindly supplied by Amy Milne Smith, surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/1298/detail/: Globe, 2 Feb 1885, p.5: English Martyrs' Church, Codex Historicus; letter to Trustees of the Oblates, 21 Feb 1935 ↩
LMA, District Surveyors Returns; Collage 119537: Tower Hamlets planning applications online ↩
"This is a quiet thoroughfare leading out of Leman-sreet, and the houses are chiefly tenanted by business people and lodging-house keepers. No. 30 is a tenement of four floors, kept by Miss Cannon, proprietor of a Book Depository, pamphlets, &c, being displayed in the windows of the apartment on the ground floor, which is also used as a sitting-room by the lodgers. Of these there are several, but, owing to the exclusiveness which the inhabitants of London cultivate, very little attention is paid to one another's movements." The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 1885, 5.
The paper was interested in the lodging because one of its residents, a man who gave his name as "James Gilbert Cunningham" was a lodger there when he was arrested in connection with the Fenian bombing of the Tower of London that year. In their search, the police also found three copies of United Ireland stuffed up the chimney along with an article from a London paper about the attempted assassination of a Captain Phelan in New York.