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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Battle Bridge Estate

Estates in Bloomsbury

1 Duke of Bedford
2 City of London Corporation
3 Capper Mortimer
4 Fitzroy (Duke of Grafton)
5 Somers
6 Skinners' (Tonbridge)
7 Battle Bridge
8 Lucas
9 Harrison
10 Foundling Hospital
11 Rugby
12 Bedford Charity (Harpur)
13 Doughty
14 Gray's Inn
15 Bainbridge–Dyott (Rookeries)

Area between the Foundling and Harrison estates: Church land

Grey areas: fragmented ownership and haphazard development; already built up by 1800

About the Battle Bridge Estate

The Battle Bridge field was originally a field to the west and east of Gray’s Inn Road, sharing its name with the name usually applied to this part of London prior to the erection here of the memorial to King George IV in 1830, when the area became known as King’s Cross instead (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The development of the New Road (Euston Road) in the middle of the eighteenth century cut across the 18-acre part of the field west of Gray’s Inn Road, leaving most of it south of the new road (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

This land was owned by William Brock in 1800 and continued to be used for gardens and meadows until the early 1820s, when it was purchased by Thomas Dunstan, William Robinson, and William Flanders (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The entire site they purchased was 16½ acres, 15¼ of them south of Euston Road but also including part of the north side of the road around what later became St Pancras station, in the north-east corner of Bloomsbury (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

Dunstan, Robinson, and Flanders subsequently applied for an Act of Parliament to develop the land, in 1824, at the same time as the neighbouring Skinners’, Cromer, and Harrison estates were being developed, although development of the Battle Bridge estate proceeded more slowly and was not completed until the 1840s (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

Development was delayed in part by the failure of the ambitious Panarmion scheme, a large entertainment complex with a theatre, galleries, and reading rooms as well as gardens and pleasure grounds, opened in 1830 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

This would ultimately have filled a large area bordered by Argyle Street, Liverpool Street, and Derby Street but which closed after two years in 1832 and was demolished, without ever having all been built (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The subsequent residential development was not particularly high-class: “Although the houses which they built have the charm inherent in diminutive dwellings of the early 19th century, with picturesque balconies and fanlights, the Battle Bridge area was never ‘highly respectable’ in the social sense of the day” (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The main part of the estate, comprising Liverpool Street, Manchester Street, Derby Street, and Belgrave Street, was reported to be healthy in 1842 (J. Worrell, 28 October 1842, Appendix to Fifth Annual Report of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sessional Papers of the House of Lords, 1843)

This was in marked contrast to the neighbouring Cromer estate to the south, the courts at the northern end of the Foundling estate, and the other part of the original Battle Bridge field to the east of Gray’s Inn Road, which had the highest death rate of the local areas (J. Worrell, 28 October 1842, Appendix to Fifth Annual Report of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sessional Papers of the House of Lords, 1843)

However, the whole area was reported to be overcrowded and squalid in 1848 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952), and the coming of the railways in the latter half of the century, with the opening of the stations at King’s Cross and St Pancras, rendered it particularly vulnerable to the conversion of its houses into lodging-houses and cheap hotels, many of which rapidly acquired a dubious reputation which continued well into the twentieth century

Argyle Row

Residents of “Argyle-row, Argyle-place” are mentioned in The Times of 1 December 1855 and of “Argyle-row, Argyle-square” in The Times of 18 June 1857, but the street itself is too negligible to be featured on most maps

There appears to have been a grocery business at no. 3 from the 1820s onwards

In 1857 The Times advertised a business established for 33 years situated in a 6-roomed house at no. 3 Argyle Row (The Times, 18 June 1857)

This was the address of a grocer who had died of cholera aged 66 on 1 August 1855, according to the weekly returns of the Registrar-General; the Registrar said at the time “The dwelling is confined and unwholesome”

On 20 April 1877 there was an inquest into the death of Susan Star, aged 66, of 3 Argyle Row, Brunswick Street, who had died earlier in the week (The Times, 21 April 1877)

According to the report in The Times, she had died of shock when threatened with losing the parish relief which had supported her there for the last two years (The Times, 21 April 1877)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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