The Cupola

The Cupola the old name for 42 St Mary Street.

The Cupola. Although the brick frontage is modern (probably early twentieth century), it hides a much older building, which is hinted at by the roofline.

In 1738 the property was called the ‘Gate House’ or ‘Cupola’, described as built over the west end of a passage, which included a number of rooms built along the south side of the passage (SRO D/B/bw/1685,1734). This passage was the rear entrance to the Swan Inn on the Cornhill (now the site of the Cornhill pub), primarily used for horses and coaches (D/B/bw/CL/95). The rear entrance to the Swan is first mentioned in 1564 (D/B/bw/CL/95).

The Cupola is marked here in red, the Swan Inn in Pink, then the passage way from the Cupola to the Swan in dark blue. The buildings along the south side of the passageway (light blue) were once part of the Cupola, but detached by the nineteenth century. All together, the red and two blue elements on this map suggest a single medieval burgage plot, which was divided up over the centuries.

The name ‘Cupola’ is perplexing. It tends to refer to cup-shaped features, although these can go up as well as down. A cupola on a roof is a small dome, often with a bell underneath. However it can also refer to a cup-shaped hole in the ground used for smelting, especially for bells. So the Cupola may have once had a dome on the roof, or it might have once been an industrial site.

From 1832 the Cupola was leased by Richard Burt, a linen draper, when it was described as ‘a dwelling house and shop… formerly known as the Cupola’. The property measured 26 feet 4 inches along St Mary Street and 44 feet 6 inches deep. By this time the buildings along the passageway were no longer part of the Cupola property.

Miles Kerr-Peterson 25 September 2020