I found an 1868 entry in ‘The Building News and Engineering Journal’ which lists five consecutive properties for sale on Dorset Street, including #26 Dorset Street.
Here’s a transcription of the entries that caught my eye:
“Freehold two messuages, Nos. 26 and 28, Dorset street, Commercial-road, producing £30 8s per annum—£420.
Freehold three houses, Nos. 25, 27, and 29, Dorset street, Commercial-road, producing £39 per annum—£320.”
‘Messuage’ is a legal term referring to a dwelling-house that encompasses additional features such as outbuildings, a court-yard, a garden, an orchard, etc. According to the dictionary, the word ‘messuage’ derives from the old Anglo-French ‘mesuage’ meaning ‘holding’.
I interpret this to mean that the courtyard known as Miller’s Court was considered a messuage belonging to the house at #26 Dorset Street, and was not owned jointly by #27.
Apparently Dorset Street was numbered consecutively rather than alternating odd-even numbers on opposite sides of the street- thus #26 and #27 were side by side. But #26 is listed for sale separately from #27, which I find somewhat confusing if the two were attached with an archway that contained more rooms above.
Was this common?
Did the archway and the upper rooms belong to the side holding the messuage, #26?
Or did half of the archway and its upper rooms belong to #26 and half to #27, but the courtyard -Miller’s Court- belonged to #26?
I’d greatly appreciate it if anyone can help explain how this usually worked.
The fact that all five of these Dorset Street properties were offered for sale at the same time suggests to me that they were either owned by one person, or owned by that person's heirs, or owned by a single group of investors. Each of the five properties is described as a ‘freehold’, so all five are owned outright and being sold outright, not offered for lease.
I don’t know if the 1860's owner could have been the individual named Miller who gave his name to Miller’s Court. Perhaps Miller died c.1868 and left the Dorset Street properties to his heirs, who then sold them? Does anybody know?
Do you mean Dorset Street, Commercial Street and Dorset Street, Commercial Road are two different places???
RATS! If baffles me that London can repeat the same street names all over town. It's a wonder the mail ever got delivered.
Ok, thanks Rob, back to the old drawing board...
That's why we have post codes
Originally Posted by Archaic
PS: Rob, can you answer any of the other questions about how adjoining buildings & courtyards (messuanges) were divided up into separate addresses/properties? Thanks.
Not really. My guess would be that 26 and 27 Dorset Street were separate properties. Numbers 1 to 12 Millers Court would be separate from 26/27 Dorset Street. So there would be three freehold properties in total. Millers Court would be a bit tricky as I don't think there would be an freehold for each dwelling (I mean each two story cottage which had two flats).
I think McCarthy only leased those properties and he didn't actually own them.
OK, so why aren't the postal codes mentioned in records, journals, etc when street names are mentioned? Just to be cruel?? I've seen "Dorset Street, Portman Square" listed and I know that's a completely different area from our Dorset Street, but "Dorset Street, Commercial Road" and "Dorset Street, Commercial Street"... oh, gimme a break!
Hmm, maybe that's why so many American cities name their streets using the numerical system- the city fathers once got hopelessly lost in London and vowed to make things easier on their fellow citizens if they ever got the chance.
Originally Posted by Rob Clack
Not really. My guess would be that 26 and 27 Dorset Street were separate properties. Numbers 1 to 2 Millers Court would be separate from 26/27 Dorset Street. So there would be three freehold properties in total. Millers Court would be a bit tricky as I don't think there would be an freehold for each dwelling (I mean each two story cottage which had two flats).
I think McCarthy only leased those properties and he didn't actually own them. Rob
Oh, my impression was completely different. I thought the Miller's Court cottages behind #26 and #27 Dorset Street would have belonged to either one or both of the conjoined street-front houses.
If one owner owned both 26 & 27 it would be simple to enclose the old garden area, (messuange, whatever you want to call it) and add the two rows of cottages.
But maybe two different property owners decided to take advantage of their courtyard space and built whatever type of cottage they preferred- is that why the cottages on the #26 side appear to have been smaller than those on the #27 side? (See attached diagram from Philip Sugden's book 'The Complete History of Jack the Ripper')
My impression was that none of the cottages were freeholds, but were legally "attached" to either 26 or 27, or both, and then the little flats were sublet. Maybe that's incorrect though.
I'm going from memory here, but I believe that in her Rippercast interview Fiona Rule said McCarthy organized a group of investors who went in on the Dorset Street properties because he promised them a good annual rate of return, something like 4%. (Please correct me if I'm misremembering.)
I don't know if McCarthy was one of the investors, or started as the manager/landlord and bought in as co-owner or sole owner at some point...not sure that has ever been established. Does anyone know?
They usually just say Dorset Street, Commercial Street, so people are aware which is which. I think all post codes back then were a single letter and no number. So both the Commercial Street and Commercial Road, Dorset Streets should be 'E'.
I'm only guessing at Millers Court. The only way to tell for certain is to check the Land deeds, which I am not sure still survive. If they do there may be a mention in Fiona Rules book 'The Worst Street in London'. It's been a while since I read it.