Derives its name from the time when the Royal Wardrobe, a name for the storage and expenditure office of the royal household, occupied this site. In 1361 Edward 111 acquired the town house of Sir John Beauchamp and used the building to store his robes and ceremonial dress when space was at a premium in the Tower of London. The house burned down in the great fire of 1666. The Royal Household moved the effects to new premises on the riverside close to the site of the Savoy Hotel today
In 1673 a crown lease was granted to William Wardour who redeveloped the site with houses surrounding an open courtyard. The north and east sides were begun in 1678. The development also included rows of houses on Puddle Dock hill (St Andrew’s Hill) and in Addle hill. Wardour almost certainly developed the whole site, about 25 houses in all, by 1681. John Strype’s survey of the city and Westminster (1720) described it as a’ large and square court with good houses’ the freehold remained in Crown ownership until 1831 when it was sold in lots. From the mid 19th century use of the houses gradually changed from residential to commercial. Today the only original houses are nos 2-6 the square. Wardrobe place was redeveloped in 1983.
Number 2 has been grade 2 listed as a building of interest as it is an example of an early post fire townhouse. It also has two over mantel paintings dating back to 1680. Alterations were carried out to number 2 in the 1830s when the front was remodelled and a fourth floor added.
After the great fire 80% of housing stock in the city had been destroyed.. The disaster led to the London Building Act of 1667, the first to provide for surveyors to enforce its regulations. It laid down that all houses were to be built in brick or stone. The number of storeys, the height of ceilings and the width of walls were carefully specified. Party walls had to be thick enough to impede the spread of fire for 2 hours. Roofs could not be tiled with wooden shingles, slate or tiles had to be used. Streets should be wide enough to act as a fire break. This first Act applied to the walled City of London. The Building Acts of 1707 and 1709 extended that control to Westminster. The later acts added a prohibition on timber cornices and required brick parapets to rise two and half feet above the garret floor. A comprehensive Act in 1774 covered the whole built-up area. Its detailed set of regulations included the stipulation that doors and windows should be recessed at least four inches from the front of the building.
Much has been made of the apparent newness of these houses and the related phenomenon of residential squares. The latter had begun in the 1640s at Covent Garden and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, west of the City and outside the area of the Fire, and there were more on the outskirts of the City on both the east and west sides, built in the 1680s. But were the houses, sometimes in rows, really new and thus a modernising phenomenon? Probably not. The four types of house were all from plans which had existed before the Fire. The arrangement of rooms inside them had not changed, neither had their shape except for some regulation of height. They were probably more sanitary and now lasted longer. But in many ways, they were only the medieval or Tudor houses reclothed in brick. Shops were still shops and for several decades after 1666 they were allowed to have projecting signs outside just as they had before the Fire. The great majority of buildings after the Fire had the same functions as before.
www.museumoflondon.org.uk The great fire of London:myths and realities Proceedings from a study day 06/10/2007. Speakers Stephen Porter and Dr John Schofield
submitted by Dilys