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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 Kings 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 Lucas 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 Kings 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 Street

(formerly less extensive)

Not to be confused with numerous other Argyle Streets around London, or Argyll Street (formerly Argyle Street) near Oxford Circus

It originally formed the north–south section of the current Argyle Street, in the north-east of Bloomsbury

It was begun in 1832, although it had been planned by its developers Dunstan, Flanders, and Robinson as early as 1823–1824 (Survey of London, vol. 24)

Houses first appear in the rate books in 1833, and the west side was completed before the east side; the whole street was finished by 1849 (Survey of London, vol. 24)

On Tompson’s map of 1803 this particular part lay within fields and the New Garden; there were no previous streets or buildings here

The origin of the name Argyle for so many streets in this development remains unknown

Its original numbering was: on the west side, consecutive numbers from 1 to 22, running from north to south; and on the east side, consecutive numbers from 23 to 41, running from south to north

The modern numbering, incorporating the former Manchester Street, is: on the west side, even numbers, running from north to south, and then continuing along the south side of former Manchester Street from west to east, and on the east side, odd numbers, running from north to south, and then continuing along the north side of former Manchester Street from west to east

Dickens’s sister Fanny and her husband Henry Burnett, a singer and music teacher, lived here in 1839 (The Letters of Charles Dickens, ed Madeline House and Graham Storey, vol. I, 1965)

In 1891 The Times reported the opening that day of the “first receiving-house for ex-prisoners” at no. 30 Argyle Street (The Times, 30 January 1891)

When G. H. Duckworth walked round the area on 15 July 1898 to update Booth’s poverty maps, he noted the existence of a home for fallen women at the southwest end

His police escort, PC Robert Turner, told him there had been and indeed might still be brothels in the street

Many of its surviving original houses were converted into hotels and lodging-houses in the twentieth century

No. 18 was the site of the apparent murder–suicide of lodgers Henry and Kate Ryan in 1910 (The Times, 21 March 1910, 23 March 1910)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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