UCL logo




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

Gloucester Street

Also known as Old Gloucester Street

Not to be confused with Gloucester Street, Regent’s Park

It is in the south of Bloomsbury, just east of Southampton Row and of the Duke of Bedford’s estate

It originally ran south from Queen Square as far as Orange Street; below this, Kingsgate Street continued as far as High Holborn

It appears on Rocque’s map of 1746

Some early eighteenth-century houses survive at the south end on the west side, including no. 44, built c. 1710 and now a listed building

It was evidently a well-situated location, with houses designed for the affluent

In the late eighteenth century, no. 44 was the home of Catholic bishop Richard Challoner, who fled from Gordon rioters in 1780; he died at his house soon afterwards (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

It was named after the Duke of Gloucester, son of Queen Anne (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

Horwood’s map of 1819 shows on the east side, consecutive numbers from 1 to 23, running from south to north and terminating just south of Cross Street; and on the west side: consecutive numbers from 24 to 30 and 32 to 56, running from north to south

There was probably a no. 31 not visible on Horwood’s maps, as the street is split over two sheets

In the early nineteenth century, it still appealed to the well-off and successful

No. 34 housed the drawing school of painter John Boyne from 1791 to 1801 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

There was also an oilman to supply him living here: William Aveling, whose will was proved on 8 June 1804

By 1811, the actress and courtesan Sophie Dawes and her mother had a house there courtesy of Sophie’s lover, the Duke of Bourbon, who gave her £800 a year; she was later implicated in his death (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The army captain Benjamin Rogers, aka Sunter, of the Royal American Foot Regiment, lived here in the 1810s; his will was proved on 14 September 1813

In 1819 an essay attacking religion and the establishment was published in Richard Carlile’s radical journal The Republican by “Julian Augustus St John” of 54 Gloucester Street; this was James Augustus St John, early radical, who later became respectable and wrote for the SDUK (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 19 was the address of preacher Edward Irving in 1822, when he first arrived in London (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1997)

The street featured as a location in the short story ‘The Suicide’ published in the London Magazine in 1826; its narrator, Squanderly, comes to London against his will to become a solicitors’ articled clerk, and lodges in a “dingy apartment” up two flights of stairs in Gloucester Street, “squalid within, and melancholy without” (anon, ‘The Suicide’, London Magazine, 1 July 1826)

No. 17 was the home of a planter, William Harris, whose will was proved on 6 July 1827

No. 47 was the final home of the successful tenor Charles Dignum, who died there in 1827 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The wine merchant E. B. Breton of this street went bankrupt in early 1828 (Blackwood’s Magazine, 1828)

There was a needle manufacturer, John Reading, living here in the 1830s; his will was proved on 10 May 1836

The East India civil servant Charles James Davidson lived at no. 36 in the 1830s; his will was proved on 24 September 1839

No. 40 was occupied by a tailor, Benjamin Robinson, in the 1850s; his will was proved on 30 April 1856

No. 15 was the home of Edward Fitzgerald in 1854 (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1997)

The scientist Sidney William Rich was living at no. 23 in 1874, when he published his book on The Sewage Question

In the twentieth century, the street absorbed Kingsgate Street to its south and was renamed Old Gloucester Street, a name which first appears in The Times on 28 December 1914

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

Search by Google