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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Eastern Boundary of Bloomsbury

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

Gray’s Inn

Also known as Gray’s Inn Lane

Incorporating the former Calthorpe Place, Chichester Place, Constitution Row, Foundling Terrace, Gray’s Inn Lane Terrace, Mecklenburgh Terrace, North Place, Pindar Place, Sidmouth Place, Upper North Place, and White Hart Row

It forms the eastern boundary of Bloomsbury; it runs from Holborn to the junction of Euston Road and what is now Pentonville Road

By the eighteenth century development along its east side had reached as far north as Coley Street; development from its north end began in the 1760s

It is on the site of a much more ancient route from London’s markets to the north, Portpoole Lane; the sharp bend at the top of the road is for the old crossing of the Fleet River at Battle Bridge

By Tudor times it was already known as Gray’s Inn Lane, after the Inn of Court it passes

Originally a main route in and out of the city, it had many pubs designed for its passing travellers, including the Red Lion, and the Peacock

On the east side of the street opposite Mecklenburgh Square was the Welsh Charity School (now St David’s School, Ashford) from 1772 to 1857; this site was subsequently occupied by Eley’s ammunition factory

Smith’s dust heap at the top corner of the road on the west side in the beginning of the nineteenth century was a notable feature before development of the residential streets nearby

Nos 222–236 occupy the site of the New Providence Chapel (later St Bartholomew’s) constructed in 1811 for rich preacher William Huntingdon (the “Coalheaver Saint”) after his original Providence Chapel in Titchfield Street burned down in 1810

The site now occupied by the extended Eastman Dental Hospital was first developed in 1812, when barracks were built here for the Light Horse Volunteers; the barracks were then used from 1830 as the factory of cabinet makers Thomas and George Seddon

Thomas Cubitt, developer of much of Bloomsbury, had his enormous builder’s yard on the east side of the road from about 1815 until the twentieth century

One of the most famous of the many pubs on Gray’s Inn Road is the Calthorpe Arms (c. 1826), on the corner of Calthorpe Street; in 1833, the first constable to be killed on duty died in its yard after being stabbed during the Clerkenwell Riot, and a jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide

On the east side of the road north of Britannia Street is the site (now occupied by Pioneer House, nos 344–352 and others) of the Home and Colonial Schools Society, founded in 1836 as an Anglican institution to train schoolmistresses

Also on the east side of the road above Wren Street is the site of the Holy Trinity Church, built 1837, restored 1880, and closed in 1928 when the parish merged with St George the Martyr

The badly-behaved Church of England clergyman Edward Drax Free died (in the conveniently-located Royal Free Hospital nearby) following a traffic accident in the street in 1843 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 238a was the site of the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital from 1843 until 1913

In 1843, the old barracks became the new home of the Royal Free Hospital, which expanded further in 1856

The site between Gray’s Inn Road and Pentonville Road at the north end of the street was cleared around 1860 to allow the development of the Underground’s Metropolitan Line; the original station was built here on Battle Bridge

The Church of St Jude’s was built in 1862, between nos 330 and 334 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

In 1862 all its various terraces were incorporated into a new single numbering system for the street, which was also renamed Gray’s Inn Road

No. 252 was built around 1872 as a school, but closed ten years later

No. 370 was the London Cabmen’s Mission from 1873 until about 1910

No. 330 became the Central London Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in 1874

In the latter part of the century, the Royal Free Hospital expanded further, adding new buildings in 1876 (the Victoria Wing) and 1893 (the Alexandra Building) (Nick Black, Walking London’s Medical History, 2006)

The road continued to be an important traffic route; in 1879–1880 the Metropolitan Board of Works doubled the width of the street, and in the following decade it gained a tramway running from King’s Cross to Holborn Hall

The Church of St Jude’s closed in 1936 when its parish united with Holy Cross; the latter church has some of its memorials and fittings (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)

The Royal Free Hospital finally moved to Hampstead in 1974, at which point the twentieth-century Eastman Dental Hospital (built on the old site of the Welsh Charity School) expanded to the old Royal Free site

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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