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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 Square

Also known as Argyll Square

It is in the north-east corner of Bloomsbury; it was planned in 1832, following the collapse of the Panarmion project (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The Times advertised a sale on Tuesday 28 February 1832 of “A very large quantity of Stock and Place Bricks, Stone, Flint, and miscellaneous Property...forming the enclosure of the [Panarmion] gardens...The whole to be taken away at the expense of the purchasers immediately after the sale, in order to form a square, to be called Argyll-square”(The Times, 21 February 1832)

According to the Survey of London, its first houses appear in the rate books in 1840 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

It was fully built by 1849 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

It may have been named after the Dukes of Argyll (sic), along with the other streets nearby which share this name (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

Its numbering system was: on the north side, consecutive numbers from 1 to 6, running from west to east; on the east side, consecutive numbers from 6 to 25, running from north to south; on the south side, consecutive numbers from 26 to 35, running from east to west, and on the west side, consecutive numbers from 36 to 47, running from south to north

Its houses were third-class houses designed for tenants of modest means

In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was a focus of Swedenborgian activity and a respectable place to live; The New Jerusalem Church (Swedenborgian) was opened in 1844

It stood on the south side of the square, on a large plot just above Riley Street

The engineer (and benefactor of Owens College Manchester) Sir William Mather, educated by a Swedenborgian in Accrington, married Emma Jane Watson there in 1863 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The minister of the church, Jonathan Bailey, was also from Accrington (Reports of the Swedenborg Society)

In 1856–1859 John Borsley, a builder, inhabited and worked from no. 32; his bankruptcy was reported in The Times (29 September 1857; 19 March 1859)

He was also a director of the Grand Junction Omnibus Company, and later the Metropolitan Saloon Omnibus Company, who owed him money which they had not repaid (The Times, 19 March 1859)

No. 2 was the home of the artist Francis Finch and his wife until 1860; he had studied with Henry Sass (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 46 was occupied in 1862 by 17-year old engraver’s apprentice Walter Crane and his widowed mother (Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

No. 6 was the home of Jewish newspaper editor and supporter of separate Jewish education Michael Henry, who died there in 1875 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

When G. H. Duckworth walked around the area on 15 July 1898, to update Booth’s poverty maps, he noted that it remained a “red” area, that is, middle-class and well-to-do

The Square was bombed during the Second World War

The New Jerusalem church was damaged and later demolished

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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