Great Windmill Street, W1D, W1V

Place name

As the name suggests, there was indeed a windmill on the site until well into the latter half of the 17thCentury. It was first recorded in 1585 and demolished during the 1690s. The prefix ‘Great’ was added, as it appears on John Rocque’s 1746 map of London, to distinguish it from Little Windmill Street (today, Lexington Street). Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names says this well-established street originated as a Tudor path leading across Windmill Field to a tall brick windmill that was probably built in about 1560. Its long sails are prominent on maps of the next hundred years. Dan Cruickshank in Soho, says: “The east side of what became known as Great Windmill Street appears on the 1585 map of the area and is marked as being in the possession of Widow Golightly. The map also shows a windmill that stood on what is now Ham Yard, which until the mid eighteenth century was known as Windmill Yard. In 1612 Robert Baker acquired the Golightly estate, on part of which he built Piccadilly Hall. The west wide of the future Great Windmill Street had been owned by the Mercers’ Company until acquired by Henry VIII in 1536. During Elizabeth I’s reign the land was granted to, or purchased by, various individuals who were generally humble, and included a brewer. So by the early seventeenth century the uses of this Soho enclave were decidedly mixed but dominated by stabling and brewing, later joined by merchants’ houses, offices, store rooms and manufactories.” He continues: “The form of the street appears to have been resolved by the 1670s, largely as a result of speculations and appeals to the Privy Council (which acted as a sort of planning authority for certain types of development on certain parcels of land) undertaken by Colonel Thomas Panton. By the time of Ogilby and Morgan’s map of 1681-2 ‘Windmill Street’ is shown with continuous lines of buildings on both its sides.” Many ‘Great’ streets were renamed in the late 1930s by the London County Council which attempted to remove all prefixed names from the London Directory. Those that survived did so because removing them was deemed to be harmful or destructive of historical interest.







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