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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Bainbridge and Dyott Estate and Rookeries

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 Bainbridge and Dyott Estates and the Rookeries

Thomas Beames, writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, described the whole area of St Giles as the type of “the lowest conditions under which human life is possible”, but he was at a loss to explain why: it was not on the river (at that time a haunt of criminals), had not had sanctuary areas (which often became criminal rendezvous places) and had been a rich area in the seventeenth century (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

Beames further notes that “Bainbridge and Buckeridge Street were built prior to 1672, and derive their names from their owners, who were men of wealth in the time of Charles II.; as Dyott Street does its title from Mr. Dyott, a man of consideration in the same reign” (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

By the 1740s, however, the area had become the slum known as the Rookeries, inhabited by many poor Irish in particular, and with a reputation for crime as well as poverty (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

“The worst sink of iniquity was The Rookery,–-a place or rather district, so named, whose shape was triangular, bounded by Bainbridge Street, George Street, and High Street, St Giles’s. While the New Oxford Street was building, the recesses of this Alsatia were laid open partially to the public, the debris were exposed to view; the colony, called The Rookery was like an honeycomb, perforated by a number of courts and blind alleys, culs de sac, without any outlet other than the entrance” (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

A similar account of the maze of alleyways and building appears in Henry Mayhew’s account of his visit to the Rookery of St Giles in about 1860, in which he quotes from a manuscript by Mr Hunt, inspector of local lodging-houses, concerning the conditions in the area prior to the development of New Oxford Street through it in the 1840s (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ed Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2010)

According to this, “The ground covered by the Rookery was enclosed by Great Russell Street, Charlotte Street, Broad Street, and High Street, all within the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. Within this space were George Street (once Dyott Street), Carrier Street, Maynard Street, and Church Street, which ran from north to south, and were intersected by Church Lane, Ivy Lane, Buckeridge Street, Bainbridge Street, and New Street. These, with an almost endless intricacy of courts and yards crossing each other, rendered the place like a rabbit-warren...Both sides of Buckeridge Street abounded in courts, particularly the north side, and these, with the connected backyards and low walls in the rear of the street, afforded an easy escape to any thief when pursued by officers of justice” (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ed Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2010)

Beames in his account mentioned the original wealthy landowners of Bainbridge, Buckeridge, and Dyott; at the beginning of the nineteenth century, much of the area was still covered by the Bainbridge and Dyott estates, the latter of which was owned by a Thomas Skip Dyot Bucknall, so evidently two of the families were interconnected (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

Bucknall died in 1797, leaving four children, all daughters; his will settled his estate on his eldest daughter, Arabella Charlotte Dyot Bucknall, and her heirs male (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

If all his daughters died without male issue, the estate was entailed on “the heirs male of Richard Dyot of Freeford in the county of Stafford Esquire” so that “the said Dyot Estates and Property as before described, are not to be any ways divided or sold, but constantly held and enjoyed by a Dyot, the heir male of the said Richard Dyot for ever” (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

Arabella Dyot Bucknall attained her majority and married Thomas Hanmer in 1808; in 1815 they and other surviving members of the family succeeded in getting royal assent to an Act of Parliament designed to allow them to sell off the estate and use the money raised from the sale to buy land elsewhere which would be inherited according to the terms of Thomas Skip Dyot Bucknall’s will (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

The Act said that “the said Estate called the Dyot Estate, consists entirely of houses and buildings, situated in the parishes of Saint Giles in the Fields and Saint George Bloomsbury in the county of Middlesex, and Crucifix Lane Bermondsey in the county of Surrey, which are for the most part poor and mean, and many of them are in a very decayed state; so that great sums of money are or will be required to be laid out upon them to prevent their falling into ruin, and the same are liable to great hazard of loss or damage by fire and otherwise” (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

The estate was said at the time to be going to be settled on Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson and John Harding and their heirs (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

A schedule gives a listing of the property included within the estate, comprising nos 1–41 Dyot Street, Dyot Garden, nos 1–15 Church Lane, Winkworth Yard, Robinhood Court, Nicholas Court, Buckley Court, Whitehorse Yard, and parts of Phoenix Street, High Street, and Broad Street (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

A further related document shows the estate as surveyed on 12 February 1851, prior to its being auctioned on 19 March 1851; it seems to occupy the same area as specified in the schedule, and shows the locations of some (but not all) of the tiny courts and yards named on that schedule (ACC/1852/007, London Metropolitan Archives)

Another plan (undated, but made after the construction of New Oxford Street in the 1840s and probably dating from the 1870s) describes the estate as “Lord Hanmer’s estate”, suggesting that the Dyot Bucknall family had not, after all, sold the land (ACC/1852/009, London Metropolitan Archives), while a further plan dated 1876 shows the combined estates of Dyott and Buckeridge, the property of John, Baron Hanmer (ACC/1852/010, London Metropolitan Archives)

The owner of the estate named on these plans is John, eldest son of Arabella (née Dyot Bucknall) and her husband Thomas Hanmer, a poet and politician, who was 3rd Baronet Hanmer from 1828 and 1st Baron Hanmer from 1872 until his death in 1881 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Buckeridge estate as shown jointly with the Dyott estate on this plan was much smaller, including houses along the north side of Church Lane between Church Street and George Street, and some houses on what was left of Carrier Street (ACC/1852/010, London Metropolitan Archives)

Although the whole area was affected by the construction of New Oxford Street in the 1840s, many of its streets survived this development and became even poorer and more crowded than before, as residents displaced by the development crowded into the remaining streets, courts, and alleys (Journal of the Statistical Society of London, vol. XI, March 1848)

In 1874 the area was still desperately in need of improvement, being still overcrowded and unhealthy; The Times reported that the Metropolitan Board of Works had obtained orders for the demolition of buildings in the yards of houses on the north and south sides of Church Lane, Carrier Street, and Church Street, along with the demolition in their entirety of Welch’s Court and Kennedy Court (The Times, 27 August 1874)

Throughout the twentieth century there was more redevelopment in the area, and in the early twenty-first century the 500,000 sq. ft Central Saint Giles project became the latest attempt to sweep away all the old buildings on the site and replace them with a modern and progressive urban environment (www.centralsaintgiles.com)

Dyott Street

Also known as Diot Street/Dyot Street/George Street/Maidenhead Lane

Not to be confused with George Street (now North Gower Street), Euston Square; George Street, Hanover Square; or any other George Street in London

It is in the south-east of Bloomsbury and marked the border between the Duke of Bedford’s estate and the Rookeries area

It has been substantially rebuilt in the same location, most notably in the 1840s when New Oxford Street was driven at an angle through its middle section

According to the Survey of London, the streets in this area were developed in the later seventeenth century by Henry Bainbridge (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

Horwood’s map of 1799 shows houses along both sides for its whole length, except on the east side between Streatham Street and Phoenix Street (above Bedford Chapel)

The 1819 edition of his map shows buildings (probably non-residential) here as well

The area was in medieval times part of the outlying grounds of St Giles’s Hospital for Lepers (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

Some authors claim that the field built on for this and surrounding streets was called Maidenhead Field (see, for example, “Sholto Percy” [Joseph Clinton Robertson] and “Reuben Percy” [Thomas Byerley], London: Or, Interesting Memorials of Its Rise, Progress, and Present State, 1824)

It seems to have been renamed (along with Buckridge Street and Maynard Street) after the married name of one of Henry Bainbridge’s three daughters, Bainbridge being the 17th-century owner of the estate on which the street was built (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

Nineteenth-century sources share a common belief that a Sir Thomas Dyott of the late seventeenth century owned its property and insisted that it should maintain its high status of buildings and occupants forever (eg “Sholto Percy” [Joseph Clinton Robertson] and “Reuben Percy” [Thomas Byerley], London: Or, Interesting Memorials of Its Rise, Progress, and Present State, 1824, John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1868, and Pierce Egan and William Thomas Moncrieff, The True History of Tom and Jerry, 1889)

It was also said that his descendants continued to live in their grand house in the street until the early nineteenth century: Philip Dyott, the last, lived there “till within these few years”, according to an anonymous article on ‘The Rookeries of London’ in The Anglo-Saxon (1849) (he does not appear in the 1841 census, however)

The house, Dyott House, was said in 1845 to have been built before 1665 by Richard Dyott, of the firm Whetstone, Dyott, and Pargiter, and to be “a large house...of some pretensions to bygone respectability” (“Miles’s Boy”, ‘A Ramble in the Rookery’, in The Sportsman’s Magazine, or Life in London and the Country, 19 April 1845)

An illustration shows a three-story house on a street corner (the article suggests it was on the south-west corner with Church Street) with a grocer’s shop window on the ground floor (“Miles’s Boy”, ‘A Ramble in the Rookery’, in The Sportsman’s Magazine, or Life in London and the Country, 19 April 1845)

The writer notes that most of the street has already been rebuilt and the rest is about to be demolished for redevelopment, including Dyott House itself; he recommends a visit to see its “solid, carved, and cumbrous oaken staircase...elaborately carved mantelpieces, and profusely ornamented ceilings” (“Miles’s Boy”, ‘A Ramble in the Rookery’, in The Sportsman’s Magazine, or Life in London and the Country, 19 April 1845)

The British Museum has a drawing of the staircase by John Wykeham Archer, supposedly drawn in 1843, ref. Binyon XI (20) (opens in new window)

The house was most famous at the time because it had recently been the scene of an appalling murder, although there are few details of this in the article: only that the victim was a woman, killed in the back parlour (“Miles’s Boy”, ‘A Ramble in the Rookery’, in The Sportsman’s Magazine, or Life in London and the Country, 19 April 1845)

This murder is also mentioned by Henry Mayhew in his account of ‘A Visit to the Rookery of St Giles and its Neighbourhood’, c. 1860, although he calls the house“ the ancient manor-house of St-Giles-in-Fields, now fitted up as a lodging-house for simple men” (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ed Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2010)

He names the victim as Mary Brothers and the murderer as Connell, which tallies with the Old Bailey report of the trial in May 1845 of Joseph Connor for the murder of Mary Brothers on 31 March of the same year, and which therefore means the house was at this stage no. 11 George Street (Old Bailey Proceedings Online, May 1845, Joseph Connor, t18450512-1051)

There are no numbers on any edition of Horwood’s map

Its famous Maidenhead Inn was said in 1720 to be “of great resort by Mealmen and Country Waggons” (John Strype, Stow’s Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Corrected, Improved and Very Much Enlarged, 1720)

Even if the street had originally been a relatively high-end development, its immediate area was well-established as a slum by the beginning of the nineteenth century

The actor William Lovegrove (d. 1816) maintained that he had been attacked by two women there, and escaped only with difficulty (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

By the 1820s it had been renamed George Street in an effort to change its poor reputation

Model dwellings, Ashlyn’s Buildings, were built on the corner with Streatham Street by the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes in 1848–49, and opened in 1850

Its name was changed back to Dyott Street in 1877

Dyott House survived into the twentieth century

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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