In March 1679, Richard Frith and Willian Pym were developing Soho Square, then known as Fryths Square. A timber merchant, Cadogon Thomas of Lambeth, held a lease for a great corner house, coach house and stables. Aristocrats who lived in the Restoration House included the second Baron Crew, Lady Cavendish and the dowager Countess of Fingall but the longest residence was of William Archer MP from 1719 until 1738.
The house was partially rebuilt by Joseph Pearce of St James’s, a bricklayer, and George Pearce of St Martin’s, a plumber. The lease – granted by the Duke of Portland in 1746 – shows that the Georgian ground plan of the house is largely unaltered since then. The stable yard is now the site of the Chapel.
The rococo decorative scheme dates from 1754. It was probably designed by Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788) under the patronage of Richard Beckford, an MP for Bristol (1712-1756) who had acquired the lease but whose illness and early death deprived him of enjoying the masterpiece.
In 1811 No.1 Greek Street ceased to be a private house and became the offices of the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers. Then in 1855, the Metropolitan Board of Works – with newly elected engineer Joseph Bazalgette – became its latest residents. During this period the nineteenth century additions were added at the back of the House.
Meantime, 1846, Dr Henry Monro (1817-1891), a young physician, and Roundel Palmer (later 1st Earl of Selbourne, 1812-1895) worked with friends to found a House of Charity that would provide individuals with timely help. It rented what is now Artists House in Manette Street, a building that was originally designed by James Paine as St Anne’s parish workhouse and built in what was Rose Street between 1770 and 1771.
In 1859, Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was published and immortalized the garden and a plane tree beneath which Dr Manette and Lucie were portrayed entertaining. The tree still stands in the garden between the two buildings that the Charity has occupied.
In 1862, after half a century the local authority moved to new offices, the Charity purchased No.1 Greek Street and on Thursday 26th June the new premises were blessed. Catherine Gladstone, with help from her husband William, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, laid a foundation stone for a Chapel designed by Joseph Clarke FSA (c1819-1881). William spoke of the House, a pioneering homeless charity in London, as the only home of refuge “for the waifs and strays of the turbid sea of human society” and about the great advantages of the personal work of charity that associates of the House were performing.
On Monday 27th June 1864 the first services took place in the new Chapel of St Barnabas, the saint whose name was later adopted for the House. By then sisters of the Community of St John the Baptist had moved into the old workhouse; we believe that they stayed there until 1899 but continued to help in the House until World War Two.
During the Second War, the Chapel sustained bomb damage and the restoration, 1957-58, brought fine stained glass by John Hayward (1929- 2007), including St Barnabas holding the Chapel and a remarkable set of Stations of the Cross.
In 2005, the trustees decided that it was no longer feasible to operate the House as a hostel. The last residents were resettled by Friday 31st March 2006 and we embarked on an exciting new journey of using the House for social enterprise. The integrated Employment Academy supports the original objective of helping individuals through personal work.