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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings


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

Area of fragmented ownership

The area extending north from High Holborn east of the Bedford estate boundary at Southampton Row and King Street, being nearer to the city of London, was developed much earlier than the fields to its north

The major landowners in the east of this area were Gray’s Inn, and the Bedford Charity, Doughty, and Rugby estates, all of which also began developing their land in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century

Nicholas Barbon, who was the first major speculative builder in the area, laid out Red Lion Square itself as well as many of the streets further north and east; it is not clear who owned the land of Red Lion Fields on which the Square was built

To its north, Queen Square and surrounding land was part of an estate owned by the Curzons of Kedleston, Derbyshire, also developed in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, but sold off by about 1779 to pay off debts

Queen Square and Red Lion Square in particular, as well as the smaller streets in the area around them, thus became attractive locations in the nineteenth century to institutions which would have found it more difficult to establish themselves on the surrounding estates with their restrictions on non-residential and commercial tenants

Along the borders of Bloomsbury, the increasing importance of Euston Road, Gray’s Inn Road, High Holborn, and Tottenham Court Road as through traffic routes meant that they became more unified and coherent as streets, despite the multiplicity of estates whose land they had originally incorporated; as their residential significance to those estates waned, so they too became easier targets for institutions

Devonshire Street

Also known as Boswell Street

Not to be confused with Devonshire Street, Portland Place

It was built in the 1690s around the site of the seventeenth-century Old Devonshire House (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

The naturalist S. F. Gray lived here from 1800 to 1806; it was thus an early childhood home for his eldest son, Samuel junior, the botanist (b. 1798), and second son John (b. 1800), later Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 29 was the home of the famous painter of the Alps William Brockedon from 1828 (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998); he died there in 1854 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The original Old Devonshire House (no. 48 Boswell Street) was home to Major Benton Fletcher, who housed his collection of early keyboards there

He gave the house to the National Trust in 1937; fortunately he moved the instruments to the Cotswolds before the house was destroyed by a bomb in World War II; see its National Trust website (opens in new window), and Benton Fletcher. ‘Old Devonshire House, Bloomsbury’, Apollo, vol. 27, no. 161 (1938)

It was traditionally occupied by Italians throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, perhaps including Giuseppe Mazzini (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

It was renamed Boswell Street in 1927

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


Bloomsbury Project - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 3134 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

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