Dean Street Townhouse
69 Dean Street is a Grade II listed, 18th century four storey Georgian Townhouse. It is currently called the Dean Street Townhouse, a new nine bedroom hotel and restaurant, which opened on 24 November 2009. Prior to being opened as a hotel, 69 Dean Street was home to the Gargoyle Club which had a reputation of being haunted by one of King Charles II famous mistresses, Nell Gwyn (Gwynne).
Built between 1732 and 1735, 69 Dean Street has been occupied by several notable people, including:
1750 – George Wandesford, 4th Viscount Castlecomer (Born in Kirklington 22 September 1687 – Died in Dublin, 25 June 1751).
1755-1773 Sir John Wynn, 2nd Baronet of Bodvean (Born 1701 – Died 1773). 1775 – Hon. Baron Grant.
1775-1795 Sir Lionel Darell, 1st Baronet (Born 1742- Died 1803) – Director of the East India Company (1780-1803), Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis (1780-84) and Hendon (1784-1803).
1796 – 1824 Sir Thomas Bell.
In 1834 the musician, composer and musical editor, Vincent Novello (Born 6 September 1781 – Died 9 August 1861) and his son Joseph Alfred Novello (1810–1896) moved in. The singer Clara Novello (Born 1818– Died 1908) (Vincents daughter) moved in during 1842. The company Novello & co operated out of the building from about 1847, printing cheap music. The company was run by Joseph Alfred Novello and Henry Littleton (died 1888) (joined 1841, became a partner in 1861, sole proprietor 1866). In 1867 they became Novello, Ewer & Co after incorporating the firm of Ewer & Co but changed the name back later.
In 1849 Vincent Novello moved to Nice where he eventually died. It is thought that the upper storey’s of the house were added around 1864 as further accommodation for their growing printing business. In 1867 when Henry Littleton had taken over following Joseph’s retirement, the business moved to Berners Street, returning to 69 Dean Street in 1871. They expanded further in 1875 by buying 70 Dean Street for storage. Henry Littleton’s children ran the firm following his death in 1888 and in 1898 they moved the business to Hollen Street.
In 1925 David Tennant (the son of Lord Glenconner) opened his speakeasy, The Gargoyle Club. This club, complete with a four piece orchestra became a regular haunt for aristocrats and artists. It was visited by the likes of:
Fred Astaire (Born 10 May 1899 – Died 22 June 1987) (American Actor, Singer, Dancer, Choreographer).
Francis Bacon (Born 28 October 1909 – Died 28 April 1992) (Painter).
Augustus John (Born 4 January 1878 – Died 31 October 1961) (Painter).
Dylan Thomas (Born 27 October 1914 – Died 9 November 1953) (Welsh Poet).
Tallulah Bankhead (Born 31 January 1902– Died 12 December 1968) (American Actress, Talk-Show Host).
Lucian Freud (Painter).
Henri Matisse (Born 31 December 1869 – Died 3 November 1954) (French Painter).
John Minton (Born 25 December 1917– Died 20 January 1957) (Painter, Illustrator)
Graham Greene (Born 2 October 1904 – Died 3 April 1991) (Writer)
Guy Burgess (Born 16 April 1911 – Died 30 August 1963) (Double Agent)
Donald MacLean (Born London 25 May 1913 – Died Moscow 6 March 1983) (Double Agent, Soviet Mole)
The Gargoyle Club has been described as having ‘raffish figures behaving badly on its premises, with most of the artistic intelligentsia of the day as members and regulars’. Michael Luke described the Moorish interior as “Mystery suffused with a tender eroticism”.
By the 1980’s it was no longer a stylish nightclub and was a mere shadow of it’s former self, being considered by some to be sleazy and the home of the Nell Gwyn Strip Club. Alexei Sayle’s Comedy Store opened above the The Gargoyle Club in 1979 and was one of the early venues where the comediens Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders performed. In one interview Dawn stated ‘It was full of horrible men. They’d fallen out of strip clubs and they couldn’t understand why we were on stage and still had our clothes on.’ Other comediens who kick started their careers at the Comedy Store included Sandy Toksvig, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Ben Elton, Clive Anderson and Jack Dee.
In his Blog No.28 dated Friday, January 15, 2010, Alexei Sayle states ”Yesterday I was in a place called the Dean Street Townhouse, a trendy club and restaurant with two of my restaurant reviewer friends and I pointed out that the building we were in was the site of the original Comedy Store back in 1979. You took a lift which could only accomodate four people to the third floor I think, you were then in a topless bar called the Nell Gwynn, customers seeking new wave comedy then had to walk through the bar and go down a flight of metal stairs designed by Mondrian or possible Matisse to the Gargoyle Club which was the site of the Comedy Store. I told the maitre d’ all this and he was tremendously uninterested.”
At some point the Gargoyle Club became a club called Gossips and before the Dean Street Townhouse opened, 69 -70 Dean Street was where you would find a bar from The Pitcher and Piano chain.
The Gargoyle Club was said to have been haunted by a grey shadow apparition that would be accompanied by a very strong smell of flowers, gardenias. This apparition is generally identified as being the mistress of King Charles II, Nell Gwyn (Born 1650 – Died 14 November 1687). It is said Nell lived in a house that used to occupy the location where 69 Dean Street now stands, though I cannot confirm or deny this. The Paranormal Database also mentions a ghostly duel that takes place on the roof of the building between a Captain of the Guards and men sent by King Charles II to kill him, though there is no source mentioned.
I don’t know if any experiences were reported prior to the Gargoyle Club opening or afterwards and I know nothing to suggest that the Dean Street Townhouse is haunted.
I would of course be very interested in any information regarding this case and the amazing history of this building.