A Brief History of Benjamin Franklin’s Residences on Craven Street, London: 1757 – 1775


March 23, 2016
by David Turnquist Also by this Author


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If one looked into Benjamin Franklin’s time on Craven Street, they might initially believe he lived at 36 Craven Street the entirety of his two stays in London based on the plethora of articles on the internet that say so. If they dug a little deeper they might read that he lived at No. 27 Craven Street, previously numbered 7, but now numbered 36; or that he lived exclusively at No. 7 Craven Street; or that he lived in multiple residences on Craven Street; or that he moved out of No. 36 to another house on Craven Street and then moved back into No. 36 the last year of his residence. What is one to believe with all of the conflicting accounts? What does the historical record have to say about Franklin’s time on Craven Street?

Figure 1. Spur Alley 1685. “A map of the parish of St Martins in the Fields, taken from ye last survey, with additions (1685)”. (British Library)
Figure 1. Spur Alley 1685. “A map of the parish of St Martins in the Fields, taken from ye last survey, with additions (1685)”. (© The British Library Board, Shelfmark: Maps Crace Port. 13.2, Item number: 2)

Before Craven Street existed there was Spur Alley, a narrow passageway sandwiched between the Hungerford Market to the north (now Charing Cross Station) and Scotland Yard and the Northumberland House and Garden  to the south. It was flanked on both ends by major thoroughfares, the Strand on the west, connecting Westminster to London by road, and the River Thames on the east, not only connecting the two cities to each other and to Southwark on the south side of the Thames, but connecting the entire metropolis to the rest of the world. Being located in the City of Westminster, Spur Alley had escaped the devastation of the Great Fire of London in 1666 leaving its wooden structures, built in the early part of seventeenth century, intact, but also in dire need of restoration or demolition. “The ratebooks show that during the last thirty years or so of their existence the houses in Spur Alley were in a very bad condition. Few of them were rated at more than a few shillings and many of them were unoccupied.”[1] The landowner, William, 5th Baron Craven, desiring to increase the profitability of his assets, tore down the derelict structures on Spur Alley around 1730 and leased the newly established lots to builders. By 1735, twenty brick houses in the Georgian style had been built on the west side and sixteen on the east side of the way now called Craven Street.[2]

Figure 2. Craven Street 1746. (John Rocque London, Westminster and Southwark, First Edition 1746, courtesy of MOTCO: Motco Enterprises)
Figure 2. Craven Street 1746. (John Rocque London, Westminster and Southwark, First Edition 1746, Motco Enterprises Limited, motco.com)

Letters to Franklin during his residence with Mrs. Margaret Stevenson, his landlady on Craven Street, were addressed rather vaguely; “Craven Street/Strand”, “Mrs. Stevensons in Craven Street”, or “Benjamin Franklin Esqr.” are but a few examples. Letters from Franklin referenced “London,” or sometimes “Cravenstreet,” but never included a number. Despite the absence of numbered addresses in Franklin’s correspondence, there was a sense of one’s place in the neighborhood based on entries in the Westminster Rate Books (tax assessments). The Rate Books did not list house numbers during Franklin’s time there, but they did list the residents of Craven Street in a particular order that became the default numbering system for the street. Number one was associated with the first resident listed under “Craven Street” in the Rate Books and was the northernmost house on the west side of the street. The numbers increased counter-clockwise down the west side and up the east side in accordance with the list of residents. In 1748, the first year of Margaret Stevenson’s (Stevens in the Rate Books for that year) residence on Craven Street, she is listed as the twenty-seventh resident, the second house north of Court Street (later Craven Court, now Craven Passage) on the east side of the street.[3]

In 1766, Parliament passed the London Paving and Lighting Act (6 Geo. 3 c. 26), “An act for the better paving, cleansing, and enlightening, the city of London, and the liberties thereof; and for preventing obstructions and annoyances within the same; and for other purposes therein mentioned.”[4] One of the other purposes therein mentioned was the numbering of houses. With an aim to bring order to the chaotic numbering systems or lack thereof on London streets the Act provided that “… the said commissioners … may also cause every house, shop, or warehouse, in each of the said streets, lanes, squares, yards, courts, alleys, passages, and places, to be marked or numbered, in such manner as they shall judge most proper for distinguishing the same.”[5] This was quite an undertaking that took years to accomplish. It was a decade later before numbered addresses on Craven Street in the City of Westminster appeared in The London Directory (1776). The London Directory and its competitors were published primarily by booksellers or printers to supplement their income and were highly profitable. To say they were competitive is an understatement. “Some of the most hotly disputed struggles over copyright in the century concerned guidebooks. Many were optimistically emblazoned with a royal license and a notice that the work had been entered at Stationers’ Hall. Various struggles between rival guides intensified as the potential for profits became clear.”[6] The London Directory boldly proclaimed to contain “An ALPHABETICAL LIST OF THE NAMES and PLACES of ABODE of the MERCHANTS and PRINCIPAL TRADERS of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER, the Borough of SOUTHWARK, and their Environs, with the Number affixed to each House.”[7] Kent’s Directory made a similar proclamation: “An Alphabetical LIST OF THE Names and Places of Abode OF THE DIRECTORS of COMPANIES, Persons in Public Business, MERCHANTS, and other eminent TRADERS in the Cities of London and Westminster, and Borough of Southwark WITH THE NUMBERS as they are affixed to their Houses agreeable to the late Acts of Parliament.”[8] Mrs. Stevenson wasn’t included in the directories because she didn’t meet the criteria of being a merchant or trader, not because she was a woman. Although it is rare to see women listed in the directories, some examples do exist.[9] If Mrs. Stevenson had appeared in the directories in 1776 it would not have been on Craven Street as she had moved to Northumberland Court, a stone’s throw away, the previous year.[10]  A comparison of Craven Street residents whose names and addresses do appear in the directories with the same residents as they appear in the Westminster Rate Books determines if the numbering systems were congruent. For the most part they were. For example, Joseph Bond at No. 30, William Rowles at No. 31, Samuel Sneyd at No. 32, and Jonathan Michie at No. 35 in The London Directory coincide with their places of residence in the Westminster Rate Books; however, errors did occur. The 1776 edition of The London Directory lists Brown & Whiteford, wine merchants, at No. 9 Craven Street while the Westminster Rate Books list them as the twenty-ninth residents. Obviously, it makes no sense to have Brown & Whiteford at No. 9 in The London Directory and their next-door neighbor, Joseph Bond, at No. 30. The same error appears in Baldwin’s The New Complete Guide for 1783. The New Complete Guide may have “borrowed” the error from The London Directory. It was not uncommon for the owner of one directory to copy entries from another to save both time and money. Beginning in 1778 and contrary to The London Directory, Kent’s Directory faithfully followed the numbering system of the Westminster Rate Books in all of its editions and listed Brown & Whiteford at No. 29 as did Bailey’s Northern Directory in 1781. Perhaps realizing their error, The London Directory changed their listing of Brown & Whiteford from No. 9 to No. 29 in their 1783 edition and maintained that listing thereafter.


Sometime prior to 1792, the embankment on the Thames at the south end of Craven Street had been sufficiently extended allowing for the construction of ten new houses below the original houses: “ … four houses, Nos. 21–24, were built on the west side, and six houses, Nos. 25–30, on the east side of the way.”[11] In a note in the same report, the new numbering system is explained. “The houses in the street, which had previously been numbered consecutively down the west side and up the east side, were then renumbered on the same system to include the additional houses.”[12] Because the new houses (21-24) on the west side were built below the existing houses (1-20), houses 1-20 retained their original numbering.

Figure 4. Craven Street 1799. (Richard Horwood's Map of London, Westminster and the Borough of Southwark 1799, courtesy of MOTCO: Motco Enterprises)
Figure 4. Craven Street 1799. (Richard Horwood’s Map of London, Westminster and the Borough of Southwark 1799, Motco Enterprises Limited, motco.com)

One would think that the numbers of the sixteen original houses on the east side, Nos. 21 – 36, would simply increase by ten with the addition of the ten new houses, but such was not the case; they  increased by nine. How could that be? The only possible explanation is that No. 21 of the original houses was demolished to make way for the construction of the northernmost of the six new houses on the east side (No. 30). Evidence of No. 21’s demolition appears in the lease granted to Charles Owen by William, 7th Baron Craven, in 1792, which describes No. 22 as: “All that messuage in Craven Street late in the occupation of Francis Deschamps undertaker … being the Southernmost house in the Old Buildings on the East Side of the said Street numbered with the No. 22.”[13] The lease describes No. 22 as being the southernmost house in the old buildings on the east side of Craven Street. Clearly  the house previously at No. 21 did not exist when the lease granted to Charles Owen was written in 1792 as it used to be the southernmost house. It is also worth noting that in 1790, The London Directory listed  Jacob Life at No. 21 (original numbering). In 1791-2, it listed him at No. 6. With No. 21 vacated, it would allow for its demolition and the construction of the tenth new house. By utilizing lot No. 21 for the new construction, only nine additional lots were needed to build the ten houses, hence, Margaret Stevenson’s former residence at 27 became 36 (27 + 9) in the renumbering and not 37.

For nearly a century and a half after Franklin departed London for America in March of 1775 the scales were tipped heavily in favor of his residence having been No. 7 Craven Street. As early as 1807 in London; Being An Accurate History And Description Of The British Metropolis And Its Neighborhood, Volume 4, one would have read: “In Craven Street is a house, No. 7, remarkable for having been the residence of Dr. Benjamin Franklin.[14] In 1815, the identical phrase appeared in The Beauties of England and Wales.[15] After 23 editions of not mentioning Franklin, his name finally appeared in the 24th edition of The Picture of London in 1826: “The house, No. 7, Craven Street, in the Strand, was once the residence of Dr. Benjamin Franklin.”[16] In 1840, Jared Sparks referred to Franklin’s Craven Street residence appearing in London guide books in his voluminous The Works of Benjamin Franklin: “In the London Guide Books, ‘No. 7, Craven Street,’ is still indicated as the house in which Dr. Franklin resided.”[17] In 1846, George Gulliver F.R.S., in his book, The Works of William Hewson, wrote: “She [Polly] had been upon terms of the warmest friendship with Dr. Franklin

Figure 5. No. 7 Craven Street with Memorial Tablet. (Photo courtesy of British History Online, and the Survey of London)
Figure 5. No. 7 Craven Street with Memorial Tablet. (Photo courtesy of British History Online, and the Survey of London)

since she was eighteen years of age. That eminent philosopher resided with her mother, Mrs. Margaret Stevenson, at No. 7, Craven Street, Strand, during the fifteen years of his abode in London.”[18] Guide books mentioning Franklin at No. 7 continued to proliferate throughout the century: Handbook for London; Past and Present, Volume I (1849);”[19] Handbook for Modern London (1851);”[20] The Town; Its Memorable Characters and Events (1859);”[21] London and Its Environs (1879).[22] There was an anomaly when London In 1880 Illustrated With Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets, Sixth Edition (1880) placed Franklin at 27 Craven street.[23] The anomaly lasted for six years until his place of residence was changed to No. 7 in the revised edition, London. Illustrated by Eighteen Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets (1886).[24] London Past and Present; Its History, Associations, and Traditions, Volume 1 (1891), copied the 1849 Handbook for London almost word-for-word and included, “The house is on the right from the Strand.”[25] In October of 1867, The Society of Arts in London declared that: “In order to show how rich the metropolis is in the memory of important personages and events, which it would be desirable to mark by means of tablets on houses, the Council have caused an alphabetical list to be prepared, … ”[26] Franklin had been elected a corresponding member to the Society in 1756 and was a popular choice among Council members deciding who they were to memorialize.[27] By January of 1870, a tablet honoring him was affixed to the house they believed to have been his residence while in London, No. 7 Craven Street in the Strand on the west side of the street.[28] A majority of historians writing about Franklin in the nineteenth and early twentieth century placed him at No. 7:  O. L. Holley, The Life of Benjamin Franklin (1848); E. M. Tomkinson, Benjamin Franklin (1885); John Torrey Morse, Benjamin Franklin (1891); Paul Elmer More, Benjamin Franklin (1900); John S. C. Abbot, Benjamin Franklin (1903); Sydney George Fisher, The True Benjamin Franklin (1903). A notable exception is D. H. Montgomery’s His Life Written by Himself published in 1896. He has Franklin at No. 27 Craven Street. It seems then that depending upon the source, Franklin was thought to have lived at either No. 7 or No. 27, but not both, the overwhelming majority favoring No. 7. As late as 2011, Franklin is still mentioned as living at No. 7.[29]

In 1913, No. 7 was scheduled to be torn down. An article in the March 1914 edition of The Book News Monthly, describes the situation:

As is well known to informed American pilgrims, it has been possible for all admirers of the famous philosopher and statesman to pay their respects to his memory before that house, No. 7 Craven Street, just off the Strand, which was his chief home during his two sojourns in the British capital, but even as these lines are being written the London newspapers are recording that that interesting shrine is soon to be pulled down to make room for a restaurant. It is some mitigation of this misfortune to remember that at the most the Craven Street house was nothing more than a reproduction of the one in which Franklin had his suite of four rooms, for the structure has been rebuilt since Franklin’s time. When, then, some one makes a piteous plea that at least the philosopher’s bedroom shall be preserved, the soothing answer is that the apartment in question is only a replica of that in which the illustrious American enjoyed his well-earned slumbers in 1757-62 and 1764-75. The restaurant-builder, however, with an eye doubtless to possible American patronage, has assured the world that every effort will be made to preserve as much as possible of the entire structure.[30]

Concerned with the possible demolition of Franklin’s residence, the Royal Society of Arts (formerly the Society of Arts[31]) initiated an inquiry into the matter.[32] The London County Council, having taken over the responsibility of placing memorial tablets on notable houses from the Royal Society, was charged with the investigation. It ultimately fell to Sir George Laurence Gomme, a clerk to the Council, to come up with a response. A few years earlier Sir George had discovered Margaret Stevenson residing at No. 27 Craven Street in the Westminster Rate Books. He must have wondered why No. 7 on the west side of Craven Street was being celebrated as Franklin’s residence when the evidence clearly showed otherwise.

Sir George and his staff examined the various London directories discussed earlier and came up with a novel explanation for the discrepancy. They concluded that there had been two numbering systems on Craven Street. An anonymous author echoes Sir George’s conclusion about the two numbering systems in an article in The Journal of the Royal Society of Arts:

…an inspection of the directories of that time proves that there were at least two systems of numbering in Craven Street before the erection of the additional houses. According to one of these the numbers started from the top (Strand end) on the west side of the street, and ran down to the bottom to No. 20, then crossed over and went back to the Strand along the east side – 21 to 36. According to the other system, the east side of the street was numbered from the bottom upwards, starting at No 1. This was not apparently in general use, but there is evidence that this numbering was at all events occasionally used.

            The evidence of these two systems of numbering, and for believing that Mrs. Stevenson’s house was first No. 7 under the oldest system, next No. 27 under the second system, and finally No. 36 under the latest and existing system, is to be found in the various directories and the Westminster rate-books.[33]

The “evidence” mentioned above consisted of The London Directory’s listing of Brown & Whiteford at No. 9: “The rate-books for 1781 and 1786 show the house next but one to the north of Mrs. Stevenson’s house as in the occupation of Brown and ‘Whiteford,’ while the old directories mention the business of the firm as wine merchants, and give their address as 9, Craven Street – then a little later, down to 1791, as 29, Craven Street. Curiously enough, in the years 1778 to 1780, or 1781, Lowndes gives it as No. 9, and Kent as 29.”[34]  Ignoring Kent’s Directory having Brown and Whiteford as 29 and The London Directory (Lowndes) having Brown and Whiteford “a little later” as 29, and knowing that Mrs. Stevenson lived two doors south of them, Sir George concluded that her house must have been numbered 7, even though there is no listing in any of the directories of her residence ever being No. 7.  He surmised that the No. 7 on the west side of Craven Street with the memorial tablet thought to have been Franklin’s residence had simply been confused with number 7 (27) on the east side. Again from The Journal of the Royal Society of Arts:  

Taking all the evidence together, there cannot be any doubt whatever that Mrs. Stevenson’s house, in which Franklin lodged, was the house two doors north from Craven Court, first numbered 7, afterwards 27, and finally 36, and consequently that the house in which Franklin lived was that now numbered 36, not the one now numbered 7, on which the tablet is placed.[35]

A response to The Royal Society of Arts was issued: “… the London County Council … informed the Society that it had made a mistake and that No. 36 Craven street was the building that deserved commemoration.”[36] The Society accepted the Council’s conclusion, and despite assurances of preservation by the restaurant builder, No. 7 was torn down the following year.

Sir George’s assertion “that Mrs. Stevenson’s house, in which Franklin lodged, was the house two doors north from Craven Court” was correct, however, his assertion that it was “first numbered 7, afterwards 27”, was not. It was only by association with the errant entry of Brown & Whiteford at No. 9 from 1776-1782 in The London Directory that Mrs. Stevenson’s address was conjured to be No. 7. The problem with associating her address exclusively with that of Brown & Whiteford at No. 9 during those years is that, as previously demonstrated, The London Directory also listed four other Craven Street residents, Bond, Rowles, Sneyd, and Michie, who’s addresses did conform to the numbering system in The Westminster Rate Books. If Brown & Whiteford at No. 9 was indicative of a numbering system different from The Westminster Rate Books, Bond, Rowles, Sneyd, and Michie would have been listed as Nos. 10, 11, 12, and 15, respectively. So on one hand Sir George was relying on the Westminster Rate Books to establish Mrs. Stevenson at No. 27 and on the other hand he was dismissing the Westminster Rate Books to establish her at No. 7. Instead of using the anomalous listing of Brown & Whiteford at No. 9, he could have just as easily, and more logically, used the Bond et al. listings, or the post-1782 Brown & Whiteford listing in the London Directory at No. 29 to establish Mrs. Stevenson at No. 27. Even if there had been two numbering systems, his assertion that No. 27 was first numbered 7 would still be false. The earliest numbering system was the Westminster Rate Books dating from the early 1730s when the houses were constructed. Brown & Whiteford at No. 9 didn’t appear until 46 years later and then only for a brief period.

There is ample evidence in Franklin’s correspondence and in a memoir by Polly Hewson (Mrs. Stevenson’s daughter) that Benjamin and Mrs. Stevenson lived in not one, but two houses on Craven Street. On July 6, 1772, Polly wrote to Benjamin from her house at Broad Street North in London: “My Mother I must tell you went off last friday week, took our little Boy with her and left Mr. Hewson [Polly’s husband, William] the care of her House [27 Craven Street]. The first thing he did was pulling down a part of it in order to turn it to his own purpose, and advantage we hope. This Demolition cannot affect you, who at present are not even a Lodger [Benjamin was traveling at the time], your litterary apartment remains untouch’d, the Door is lock’d …”[37] In a memoir about her husband written after his death Polly writes: “He [William Hewson] began his Lectures Sept. 30, 1772, in Craven-street, where he had built a Theatre adjoining a house which he intended for the future residence of his family.”[38] On October 7, 1772, Benjamin wrote to his son William: “I am very well. But we [Mrs. Stevenson and I] are moving to another House in the same street; and I go down tomorrow to Lord LeDespencer’s to [stay a] Week till things are settled.”[39] To his son-in-law, Richard Bache, on the same day he wrote: “We are moving to another House in the [street] leaving this to Mr. Hewson.”[40] Writing to a friend on October 30, 1772 he explained: “I should sooner have answered your Questions but that in the Confusion of my Papers, occasioned by removing to another House, I could not readily find the Memorandums …”[41] On November 4, 1772 Benjamin informed his wife Deborah of the move. “We are removed to a more convenient House in the same street, Mrs. Stevenson having accommodated her Son-in-Law with that we lived in. The Removing has been a troublesome Affair, but is now over.”[42]

An agreement had been struck between the parties. Margaret and Benjamin would move to another house on Craven Street and allow Polly and William to move into No. 27, the large yard behind the house being spacious enough to accommodate the anatomy school William wished to build.[43] Perhaps the idea was inspired by Margaret’s next-door neighbor at No. 26, Dr. John Leake, a man-midwife and founder of the Westminster Lying-in Hospital, who had built a theater adjoining his residence in which he practiced anatomy and taught midwifery.[44]

After Margaret and Benjamin vacated No. 27, Polly, William, their son William Jr., and William’s younger sister, Dorothy Hewson, took up residence there.[45] In the 1773 Westminster Rate Books for Craven Street, Mrs. Stevenson’s (Stephenson in the Rate Books) name has been crossed out and replaced with “William Hewson.”[46] Further proof that the Hewsons had indeed moved into 27 Craven Street has been confirmed by the discovery of human and animal remains buried in the basement of No. 36 (formerly No. 27 and now the Benjamin Franklin House), a by-product of the dissections that took place at William’s anatomy school.[47]

So what house on Craven Street did Mrs. Stevenson and Benjamin move into after vacating No. 27? An examination of the Westminster Rate Books for the years 1774 and 1775 reveal them living not at No. 7 on the west side of Craven Street as one might expect from the overwhelming consensus of nineteenth century guidebooks and biographies, but surprisingly at No. 1.[48] The controversy of No. 7 being torn down was all for naught as it had never been Franklin’s residence. Sir George was correct on that point. Unfortunately, No. 1 was torn down as well in the early part of the twentieth century. The first time No. 1 is mentioned as Franklin’s second residence is in the Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand published by the London County Council in 1937, ironically the same County Council that had declared No. 36 as Franklin’s only residence twenty-four years earlier.

From 1748 until 1772 Margaret ‘Stephenson’ occupied this house [No. 27 (36)], and it was there that Benjamin Franklin settled after his arrival in London in 1757 as Agent to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania … In October, 1772, Mrs. Stevenson and Franklin removed to No. 1, Craven Street (now demolished), and No. 36 was for the next two years occupied by William Hewson, surgeon, who had married Mary Stevenson.[49]

In the spring of 1774, William Hewson died unexpectedly of septicemia two weeks after cutting himself while dissecting a cadaver. Polly was left to care for their two young sons and was pregnant with a daughter she would give birth to in August of the same year. Is it possible that Margaret and Benjamin moved back into No. 27 to assist Polly after the death of her husband as suggested in The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin?[50]

If the Westminster Rate Books are to be believed, the answer is no. For the year 1774, the Rate Books list Margaret Stevenson at No. 1 and William Hewson at No. 27. For the year 1775, they list Margaret Stevenson at No. 1 and Magnus Falkner (Falconer/Falconar) at No. 27. Magnus was William’s assistant at the anatomy school and fiancé to William’s sister, Dorothy. On his death bed, William instructed Polly, “let Mr. Falconar be my successor.”[51] Magnus would immediately take over the running of the anatomy school and continue William’s unfinished research. Four months later, he and Dorothy would marry.[52]  Essentially only two things changed at 27 Craven Street after William’s death: Polly gave birth to her daughter, and Magnus replaced William as the lease holder, so even if Margaret and Benjamin had wished to move back into No. 27, there would have been no room for them. It is also interesting to note that considering the multiple times Benjamin wrote of his move out of No. 27 (and complained of it), he never once mentioned moving back into No. 27 in any of his correspondence after Mr. Hewson’s death.

Figure 6. No. 36 Craven Street. (Photo courtesy of David Ross, britainexpress.com)
Figure 6. No. 36 Craven Street. (Photo courtesy of David Ross, britainexpress.com)

In sum, based on the Westminster Rate Books[53] and Franklin’s correspondence, Mrs. Stevenson is known to have resided at No. 27 (36) Craven Street from 1748 to 1772. It follows that, aside from the two years Franklin spent in Philadelphia from 1762 to 1764, he resided there from 1757 to 1772. Franklin’s correspondence also reveals that in the autumn of 1772, he and Mrs. Stevenson moved to another house on Craven Street. The 1773 Westminster Rate Books show her name crossed off at No. 27 and William Hewson’s inserted. The following year the Rate Books list her at No. 1 Craven Street. Evidence for Mrs. Stevenson and Benjamin remaining at No. 1 after William’s death appears in the Westminster Rate Books for 1775 which have Mrs. Stevenson still residing at No. 1 and Magnus Falkner residing at No. 27. Further evidence can be construed from the lack of any mention of a move back into No. 27 in Franklin’s correspondence. Despite the many theories one could devise as to why Franklin was thought to have lived at No. 7 Craven Street by so many guide books and Franklin biographers of the nineteenth century, one thing is certain; at some point after Franklin’s departure to America in March of 1775, and no later than 1807, someone mistakenly associated him with No. 7 on the west side of Craven Street, and it soon became his de facto residence. Credit must go to D. H. Montgomery in 1896 and Sir George in 1913 for setting the record partially straight by placing Franklin at No. 27(36).  In 1937, the London County Council gave us the first accurate account of Franklin’s residences on Craven Street in the Survey of London at No. 27(36) and No. 1. It has been shown conclusively that No. 27 was never previously numbered 7. It was, however, renumbered 36 in 1792 after ten additional houses were built at the southern end of the street and remains No. 36 to this day.



[1]    “Craven Street and Hungerford Lane”, in Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-the-Fields II: the Strand, ed. G H Gater and E P Wheeler (London, 1937), 27-39, Early History of the Site.


[2]   “England, Westminster Rate Books, 1634-1900,” from database with images, Craven Street – 1735, FamilySearch from database by FindMyPast and images digitized by FamilySearch; citing Westminster City Archives, London.

[3]    Ibid., Craven Street – 1748.

[4]    The Statutes at Large, From Magna Charta to the End of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain. Anno 1761 Continued, Vol. XXVII, ed. Danby Pickering, (Cambridge, John Archdeacon, 1767), 96.

[5]    Ibid., 104-105.

[6]    James Raven, Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2014), 201.

[7]    The London Directory For the Year 1776, Ninth Edition, (London: T. Lowndes, 1776), title page.

[8]    Kent’s Directory For the Year 1778, Forty-Sixth Edition, (London: Richard and Henry Causton, 1778), title page.

[9]    A listing in Kent’s Directory for the Year 1882 on p. 28 reveals, “Brown Sarah, Leather-seller, 1, Westmoreland-buildings, Aldersgate-street”, and in Kent’s Directory for the Year 1883 on p. 175, “Whiteland Mary, Wine & Brandy Mercht. Jermyn-str. St. James.”

[10]   “The Papers of Benjamin Franklin,” Sponsored by The American Philosophical Society and Yale University, Digital Edition by The Packard Humanities Institute, 22:263a.


Mrs. Stevenson wrote to Benjamin Franklin a letter from her new home at 75 Northumberland Court on November 16, 1775: “In this Court I have a kind friend, Mr. Lechmoen he comes and seats with me and talks of you with a hiy regard and friendship.”

[11]   Survey of London, Early History of the Site.

[12]   Survey of London, Footnotes/n 10.

[13]   Survey of London, Historical Notes/No. 31.

[14]   David Hughson, LL.D., London; Being An Accurate History And Description Of The British Metropolis And Its Neighbourhood, To Thirty Miles Extent, From An Actual Perambulation, Vol. IV, (London: W. Stratford, 1807), 227.

[15]   The Reverend Joseph Nightingale, The Beauties of England and Wales: Or, Original Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County, Vol. X, Part III, Vol. II (London: J. Harris; Longman and Co.; J. Walker; R. Baldwin; Sherwood and Co.; J. and J. Cundee; B. and R. Crosby and Co.; J Cuthell; J. and J. Richardson; Cadell and Davies; C. and J. Rivington; and G. Cowie and Co., 1815), 245.

[16]   John Britton, F.S.A. & Co., ed., The Original Picture of London, Enlarged and Improved: Being A Correct Guide For The Stranger, As Well As For the Inhabitant, To The Metropolis Of The British Empire Together With A Description Of The Environs, The Twenty-Fourth Edition (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1826), 479.

[17]   Jared Sparks, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VII, (Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson, 1840), 151.

[18]   George Gulliver, F.R.S., The Works of William Hewson, F. R. S., (London: Printed for the Sydenham Society, MDCCCXLVI), xx.

[19]   Peter Cunningham, Handbook for London; Past and Present, Vol. I, (London: John Murray, 1849), 245.

[20]   F. Saunders, Memories of the Great Metropolis: or, London, from the Tower to the Crystal Palace, (New York: G.P. Putnam, MDCCCLII), 138.

[21]   Leigh Hunt, The Town; Its Memorable Characters and Events, (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1859), 185.

[22]   K. Baedeker, London and Its Environs, Including Excursions To Brighton, The Isle of Wight, Etc.: Handbook For Travelers, Second Edition, (London: Dulau and Co., 1879), 133.

[23]  Herbert Fry, London In 1880 Illustrated With Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets, Sixth Edition, (New York: Scribner, Welford, & Co., 1880), 50.

[24]   Herbert Fry, London. Illustrated By Eighteen Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets, (London: W. H. Allen and Co., 1886), 40.

[25]   Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A., London Past and Present; Its History, Associations, and Traditions, Vol. 1, (London: John Murray, New York: Scribner & Welford, 1891), 473.

[26]   The Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. XV, No. 778, (October 18, 1867): 717.


[27]   D. G. C. Allen, “Dear and Serviceable to Each Other: Benjamin Franklin and the Royal Society of Arts,” American Philosophical Society, Vol. 144, No. 3, (September 2000): 248-249.

Franklin was a corresponding member in 1756 because he was still residing in Philadelphia. He became an active member the following year when he moved to London.

[28]   The Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. XVIII, No. 894, (Jan. 7, 1870): 137.


“Since the last announcement, the following tablets have been affixed on houses formerly occupied by – Benjamin Franklin, 7 Craven-street, Strand, W.C.”

[29]   Franklin in His Own Time, eds. Kevin J. Haytes and Isabelle Bour, (Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2011), xxxvii.

“Takes lodgings with Margaret Stevenson at No. 7 Craven Street.” It is unknown if the editors are referring to No. 7 on the west side of Craven Street or No. 36 on the east side using Sir George’s explanation of No. 36 being previously numbered 7.

[30]   Henry C. Shelly, “American Shrines on English Soil, III. In the Footprints of Benjamin Franklin,” in The Book News Monthly, September, 1913 to August, 1914, (Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1914), 325.

[31]   The Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. LVI, No. 2,880, (Jan. 31, 1908): 245.


“His Majesty the King, who is Patron of the Society, has granted permission to the Society to prefix to its title the term ‘Royal,’ and the Society will consequently be known in future as the ‘Royal Society of Arts.’”

[32]   Nineteenth Annual Report, 1914, of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, (Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1914), 293.


[33]   The Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. LXII, No. 3,183, (Nov. 21, 1913): 18.


[34]   Ibid.

[35]   Ibid.

[36]   Allen, “Dear and Serviceable,” 263-264.

[37]   Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 19:20.

[38]   Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, F. L. S., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Late John Coakley Lettsom With a Selection From His Correspondence, Vol. I, (London: Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1817), 144 of Correspondence.

[39]   Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 19:321b.

[40]   Ibid., 19:314.

[41]   Ibid., 19:353a.

[42]   Ibid., 19:365a.

[43]   Simon David John Chaplin, John Hunter and the ‘museum oeconomy’, 1750-1800, Department of History, King’s College London. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of London., 202.

“Following Falconar’s death [1778] the lease [27 Craven Street] was advertised, and the buildings were described as:

A genteel and commodious house, in good Repair, with Coach-house and Stabling for two Horses…consisting of two rooms and light closets on each floor, with outbuildings in the Yard, a Museum, a Compleat Theatre, and other conveniences. (Daily Advertiser, 27 August 1778)”

[44]   Simon Chaplin, “Dissection and Display in Eighteenth-Century London,” in Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment England and Beyond: Autopsy, Pathology and Display, ed. Dr. Piers Mitchell, (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2012), 108.

“Given that a nearby building at 35 [ No. 26 in Franklin’s time] was occupied by the man-midwife John Leake, who advertised lectures – including lessons in the art of making preparations – at his ‘theatre’ between 1764 and 1788, it is possible that some facilities were shared. In both cases, however, the buildings [Leake’s residence at No. 26 and Hewson’s residence next door at 27] served a dual function as domestic accommodation and as sites for lecturing and dissection.”

[45]   George Gulliver, F.R.S., The Works of William Hewson, F. R. S., (London: Printed for the Sydenham Society, MDCCCXLVI), xviii.

[46]   Westminster Rate Books, Craven Street – 1773, courtesy of the City of Westminster Archives.

[47]   S.W. Hillson et al., “Benjamin Franklin, William Hewson, and the Craven Street Bones,” Archaeology International, Vol. 2, (Nov. 22, 1998): 14-16.


[48]   Westminster Rate Books, Craven Street – 1774, 1775, courtesy of the City of Westminster Archives.

[49]   Survey of London, Historical Notes/No. 36, Craven Street (not sourced).

[50]   Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004), 261.

[51]   Pettigrew, Memoirs, 146 of Correspondence.

[52]   http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0178, note 7. “Falconar married Hewson’s sister five months after the Doctor’s death; most of the Craven Street circle attended the wedding, and BF gave away the bride: Polly to Barbara Hewson, Oct. 4, 1774, APS” (American Philosophical Society); “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V52W-TGS : accessed September 15, 2015), Magnus Falconar and Dorothy Hewson, September 12, 1774; citing Saint Martin In The Fields, Westminster, London, England, reference ; FHL microfilm 561156, 561157, 561158, 942 B4HA V. 25, 942 B4HA V. 66.

[53]   I chose to rely on the Westminster Rate Books for the numbering system on Craven Street. The books were consistent throughout the eighteenth century in the ordering of residents on the street and were used as the basis for the 1792 re-numbering. For the most part, commercial directories aligned with them as well. If by chance a directory didn’t initially align, it would inevitably produce future editions that did.

One thought on “A Brief History of Benjamin Franklin’s Residences on Craven Street, London: 1757 – 1775

  • I think it’s very ironic that on the street maps included in your excellent article, Craven Street is so close to Scotland Yard. Because following the back and forth juxtapositions of numbers 7, 27 and 36 Craven Street (throw in 75 Northumberland Court and 1 Craven Street, too) was a case that could confound Sherlock Holmes.

    Excellent job of deciphering street renumbering material spanning sixty years, including that of a wrong house number (# 7) being erroneously identified and then perpetuated in subsequent street map printings. It’s gratifying at least to know that the present day #36 Craven Street is the correct house for Ben Franklin tourists to visit. Except for #1 Craven Street for the last three years Franklin was in London, but we won’t get into that.

    Again, excellent article, David!

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