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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Duke of Bedford’s 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 Duke of Bedford’s Estate

For many people the Bedford estate and Bloomsbury are synonymous, although sales of land in the twentieth century have reduced the original 112 acres to a mere 20 (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914; Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

The Bloomsbury holdings of the Duke of Bedford originated as the estate of Thomas Wriothesley, later Earl of Southampton, who acquired them at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545 (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)

This estate was inherited by Rachel (née Wriothesley), daughter of the fourth Earl of Southampton, when the Southampton title became extinct; it passed into the Russell family, Dukes of Bedford, through her marriage to the heir of the first Duke of Bedford

It was the widow of the fourth Duke, Gertrude Leveson-Gower, who was a prime mover in the residential development of the estate, which began in the late eighteenth century and was continued by her grandson, the fifth Duke, in the early nineteenth century (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)

Much of this development was in the form of “wide streets and grand squares fit for the gentry” (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997); Donald Olsen described it as “the systematic transformation of the pastures of northern Bloomsbury into a restricted upper-middle class suburb” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

It was a well-timed development; the Bedford Estate’s Bloomsbury rental was worth about £13,800 in 1805, but jumped to £17,242 in 1806 because of all the new buildings (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

By 1816 it was nearer £25,000, and by 1819 the London rental income was as much as all the other Bedford estates put together; by 1880 it was worth £65,791 (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

The very northern part of the estate was, however, swampy and more difficult to build on, a problem exacerbated by the building slump of the 1830s, which led to areas like Gordon Square being part-developed and left unfinished for decades (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

For the crucial part played by Thomas Cubitt in the development of this estate, see Hermione Hobhouse, Thomas Cubitt: Master Builder (1971)

The size and quality of the houses meant that for the most part, the Bedford estate was never likely to turn into a slum: “Except for Abbey Place and the other narrow courts east of Woburn Place, the Bloomsbury estate had no slums. Even its narrow streets south of Great Russell Street—such as Gilbert, Little Russell, and Silver streets—were, if undeniably lower-class in character, far superior to the streets just west and south of the estate” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

However, as the area became more popular and convenient as a location for institutions, the Bedford estate had to fight to preserve its genteel residential character; it found itself “with the task of preventing, or at least discouraging, the conversion of dwelling houses into private hotels, boarding houses, institutions, offices, and shops” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

In 1886 the Bedford steward reported 140 tenement houses in Bloomsbury; Little Russell Street had 21 of them (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

“By the middle of the century many of the huge houses in Bloomsbury had been illegally converted into private hotels...By 1892 Stutfield [the Bedford estate steward] had come to regard Montague Place as a lost cause” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

By the 1890s, too, the estate had lost the battle to keep itself separate from the flow of traffic and pedestrians, originally enforced by a system of lodges, gates, and residents’ tickets of entry: “The five lodges and gates on the Bloomsbury estate—in Upper Woburn Place, Endsleigh Street, Georgiana Street (later Taviton Street), Gordon Street (originally William Street), and Torrington Place—had all been erected by 1831, presumably by Thomas Cubitt” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

The removal of all these gates, except the one in Endsleigh Street, was authorised in 1890 by Act of Parliament; that of Endsleigh Street itself was authorised along with any other remaining gates in London in 1893 (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

Developments in transport during the century had affected the estate for decades before the 1890s: “The suburban train and the season ticket reduced the significance of Bloomsbury’s proximity to the City and the Inns of Court. To make matters worse, three of the railways chose to locate their London termini virtually at the entrances to the Bedford estate, thereby depreciating its residential value” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

However, the estate “was generally successful in keeping bus and tram lines off its residential streets. For a long time the estate was able to exclude omnibuses from Hart Street (now Bloomsbury Way)...The 1806 Bloomsbury Square Act forbade hackney coaches from standing for hire in the square or within 300 feet of it. In 1886 the Bedford Office attempted, without success, to eject the cab ranks that had just been established in Tavistock and Russell squares” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

The estate’s desire to maintain a certain standard of living for its residents included attention to public health issues: “In 1854 the Duke had made at his own expense sewers in Tavistock Mews, Great Russell Street, Little Russell Street, Gilbert Street, and Rose Street. The estate also was engaged at the time in a programme of installing water closets in the houses on its property, and connecting them with the new sewers, as required by law...In a letter to the Lancet that year the physician to the Bloomsbury Dispensary praised the Duke’s sanitary projects, and attributed to them the mildness of the recent cholera epidemic on his estate” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

Along with concerns for the health of the residents, the estate continued to try to impose restrictions on what kind of tenants would be allowed in its houses: “The number of public houses and hotels on the estate fell from seventy-four in 1854 to fifty in 1869. By 1889 there were forty-one, and in 1893 only thirty-four...Such practices followed logically from the consistent desire to maintain Bloomsbury as an area of decency, uniformity, restraint, and above all of respectability” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

The desire to maintain the integrity and amenities of the estate persisted throughout the nineteenth century: “In 1895 the Duke decided to turn the waste ground north of Tavistock Place North and behind the houses in Upper Woburn Place into a lawn tennis ground” for some of the local tenants (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

Efforts to continue development and improvement in response to changing circumstances were assisted by the length of the leases granted on the estate right from the start of residential development in the 1770s: a standard 99 years: thus “[t]he later years of the century saw a great deal of new building in Bloomsbury as the original building leases fell in” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

The estate seized the opportunity for wholesale redevelopment of streets which were no longer suited to their location or which no longer fulfilled their original purpose, mews premises being a good example of the latter

“In 1880 the estate took down the block of houses between Store Street and Chenies Street, from the City of London’s estate on the west to Chenies Mews on the east...The estate widened Chenies Mews and formed it into the present Ridgmount Street. It proposed to let most of the vacant ground for institutions or factories, as it did not think the location suitable for dwelling houses” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

“In 1898 and 1899 the estate demolished the whole of the stable premises in Southampton and Montague Mews (between Southampton Row, Bedford Place, and Montague Street) and had the sites landscaped. The Duke had similar plans for Tavistock and Woburn Mews (east of Woburn Place) before he decided to sell the property to the London County Council for a housing scheme” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

“Far from being typical, the Bedford estate may well have been the best managed urban estate in England” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)

Charlotte Street

Also known as Bloomsbury Street

Not to be confused with the Charlotte Street west of Tottenham Court Road, Charlotte Street in Pimlico, or any of the others in London

It occupied almost exactly the same footprint as modern-day Bloomsbury Street, running south from Bedford Square to what was then Phoenix Street and is now the junction of the two branches of Shaftesbury Avenue

Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Plum Street extending north of Phoenix Street; this northern extent later became Charlotte Street

According to Camden History Society’s Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia (1997), some of the houses date from the 17th century underneath their 18th-century façades

Horwood’s first map of 1799 shows the street reaching all the way to Bedford Square

Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory of 1817 gives the street two separate entries, the first (north of Great Russell Street) being listed as “Charlotte Street Bedford Square”, and the second (south of Great Russell Street) being listed as “Charlotte Street Bloomsbury”

Maps until the 1830s continue to name this part Charlotte Street and the part below Phoenix Street as variations on Plumtree Street

Reynolds’ map of 1859 shows the part below Great Russell Street as Bloomsbury Street, the name later given to the street as a whole

It may have been named in honour of George III’s Queen, Charlotte

All four editions of Horwood’s map show the same confusing numbering system: numbering begins at 1 on the east side just south of Great Russell Street, and runs consecutively down to 14, just above Phoenix Street, although apparently there were two adjacent houses both numbered 6

The sequence continued with (another) no. 14 on the west side above Bedford Chapel, and thence consecutively north to no. 26 just south of Great Russell Street

However, north of Great Russell Street, numbering began again with nos 1–20 (consecutive) on the east side running north from Great Russell Street, and nos 21–24 (consecutive) also running north from Great Russell Street on the west side

In 1817 the part north of Great Russell Street had a few professional men: a solicitor, a boot and shoe maker, and an army clothing business (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

South of Great Russell Street, there were more solicitors, a physician, a surgeon, a dentist, an insurance broker, and two dealers in lace (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

No. 6 Charlotte Street became in 1820 the home of the drawing academy originally run by Henry Sass, who moved it there from Great Russell Street (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The painter William Edward Frost studied there in the 1820s, as did W. P. Frith in the 1830s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The confusing numbering system was apparently still in operation in 1832; Robson’s Directory for that year has listings for nos 1, 10, 15, 16, 2, 18, 21, 24, and 30, with residents being predominantly medical men and solicitors

No. 22 Charlotte Street was the home from 1840 of artist William Müller, member of the Clipstone Street Academy group of artists (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Sass’s drawing academy was taken over by Francis Cary in 1842 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Painters Eden Eddis, Eliza Bridell-Fox, Stephen Pearce, and James Hayllar, and poet–painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti all studied at the school in the 1840s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Francis Cary’s father Henry Cary, a translator, who was famously passed over for the position of Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum awarded instead to Anthony Panizzi, lived with Francis in Charlotte Street and died there in 1844 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Painter Eliza Bridell-Fox’s father, the Unitarian William Johnson Fox, moved to a house in the street in 1844 with (scandalously) Eliza Flower (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 24 was established as the Natural History Agency in 1848 by Samuel Stevens (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 10 was the medical practice of gynaecologist Thomas Hawkes Tanner from the late 1840s until 1862 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 36 (later no. 1) was leased by Augustus Clissold in 1854 on a 72-year lease as the first permanent base for the Swedenborg Society

In 1861 the Post Office directory showed generally professional and artistic residents, including two attorneys, the sculptor William Groves, a jeweller, and some medical men; there was also the Bedford Arms pub

In March 1871 the strip of land between Bedford Chapel and Bloomsbury Baptist Chapel was noted by the Bedford Estate as having become a nuisance (Bedford Estates Middlesex Estates’ Report Book 1, 1869–1879)

Author Kenneth Grahame shared a flat with his brother Roland here in the early 1880s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 26 Charlotte Street was the home of “entrepreneurial naturalist” John Gould, who died there in 1881 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); according o the Post Office directories, he had lived there since at least 1871, at first with Franklin Gould, one of his physician sons, who died aged 33 in 1873 (Maureen Lambourn, Gordon Sauer, and Allan McEvey, John Gould: Bird Man, 1987)

Also resident in 1881, according to the Post Office directory, were the costume makers C. & M. Baddeley and the actor-manager Johnston Forbes-Robertson, along with the architect John Sedding; the street had taken on a more cosmopolitan character, with other residents including the Dutch artist Hermanus Koekkoek jr and Pietro Mazzoni

In 1883 there was a suspected murder at no. 11:

“On Monday morning a woman named Pole was found dead in a house on Bloomsbury-street, whilst her husband was discovered ‘very drunk’ in the adjoining kitchen. He professed perfect ignorance of his wife’s death, saying that he had gone to get brandy for her, but that was all he knew. He was arrested, and, on being brought up at Bow-street, was remanded pending an inquest”
(Penny Illustrated Paper, 6 October 1883)

The 1881 census shows a John Pole, a tailor, then aged 64, living at 11 Bloomsbury Street with his wife Anna, then aged 59

No. 7 was the home of Margaret Bright Lucas, Quaker temperance campaigner, who died there in 1890 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

By 1891 the street still had some artistic and professional residents, including the Arts and Crafts artist John Scarratt Rigby and Pietro Mazzoni, but there was also a lodging-house at nos 13–14, and an agent of the new American company for dealing with cash in stores, the Lamson Consolidated Store-Service Company (Post Office directory, 1891)

In 1894 the whole street from Bedford Square to Shaftesbury Avenue was renamed Bloomsbury Street (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)

Two hotels named after Walter Scott novels, the Ivanhoe (later changed to the Marlborough) and the Kenilworth, were built here in 1910 (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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