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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Rugby 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 Rugby Estate

The estate was owned by Rugby School, founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school in Rugby, Warwickshire, by a bequest made by Lawrence Sherriff or Sherriffe, a Rugby-born London grocer (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

Sherriff’s founding bequest in 1567 included his eight-acre pasture in Conduit Close, at that time just half a mile outside the London city walls and therefore not allowed to be built on (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

At the time it seemed a poor substitute for the sum of money Sherriff had originally left for the foundation of the school in his will, reducing it in a codicil to £50 and adding this estate instead: “But to those few acres, then let for 8l. per annum, Rugby School is mainly indebted for its opulence and greatness” (Howard Staunton, The Great Schools of England, 1865)

The British Library holds a plan dating from 1752 of the estate in the Great Ormond Street area of Bloomsbury owned by the Rugby School (ref. Crace A X mass1686, Crace Collection of Maps of London, British Library)

It shows the the estate extending from Great Ormond Street east of Powis Place, along the southern and eastern edges of what would be Landsdown Mews, then apparently following the parish boundary (between St Pancras and St George the Martyr) east across Lamb’s Conduit Street, including Lamb Yard and Long Yard, and turning south at the north-east of Millman Street

It apparently included the western end of Little James Street and the north tip of Great James Street, as well as the eastern half of the extensive mews south of Great Ormond Street (Little Ormond Yard and part of Great Ormond Yard)

At this time, the part of what is now Lamb’s Conduit Street south of Great Ormond Street and north of Theobald’s Road, was still considered to be part of Red Lion Street and is shown as such on the plan

Residential development of the Conduit Close site began in the early eighteenth century, as the city spread north and west to reach it; the unscrupulous builder Nicholas Barbon, who negotiated with the Bedford Charity estate to develop it from 1684, found it convenient to build on the neighbouring Rugby estate at the same time (John Summerson, Georgian London: An Architectural Study, 1978)

His lease was taken over in 1702 by Sir William Millman, at which stage the annual rental from the estate was still small; however, extensive residential development during the eighteenth century meant that it was rising in value fast by the end of the century, a rise described by one commentator as “astonishing” (John Benjamin Heath, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, of the CIty of London, 1829)

By 1807 the annual rental income of the estate exceeded £2000 (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

An Act of 1814 by which the School applied for permission to build a chapel at Rugby School itself listed some 149 houses on its London estate, on Lamb’s Conduit Street, Chapel Street, Great Ormond Street, New Ormond Street, Milman Street, Great James Street, Ragdall Court (Millman Place), Lamp Office Court, Little Ormond Yard, Lamb’s Conduit Mews, and Feathers Mews, together with the Chapel on Chapel Street; in addition to rentals then worth £2378, large sums of money were apparently being received for the renewal of leases as they expired (Saturday Magazine, 16 April 1842)

The value of the estate apparently declined, however, from the 1820s, partly because the area became less popular as a residential quarter (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865), and by the end of the nineteenth century, many of its houses were becoming dilapidated; Little Ormond Yard was a notorious slum area, demolished and replaced by Orde Hall Street in 1882

In the twentieth century, the estate benefitted from the sale of land to the ever-expanding Great Ormond Street Hospital, but failed to redevelop some of its older streets before new planning legislation made this impossible; “This left Rugby School with street upon street of large houses full of poor and often elderly tenants whose rents were too low to cover the cost of maintenance—and had been for several decades” (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

In 1974 the estate sold 42 freeholds to Camden Borough Council: 1–25 odd Millman Street, 2–16 even and 1–17 odd Great Ormond Street, and 8–30 even in Orde Hall Street (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

The poor condition of much of its Georgian housing stock, some of which was collapsing and much of which was being demolished in the 1970s, was said by architectural historian and preservationist Dan Cruickshank to have inspired him to begin a campaign for the protection of Georgian architecture (The Times, 4 May 2008)

Documents relating to the history of the estate, including copies of the founder’s will and codicil, and other legal papers, are held by Rugby School as part of their archives; a catalogue of the Rugby School archive holdings has been digitised by the National Archives (ref. NRA 5282) and is available online (opens in new window)

Documents relating to the acquisition of some of the estate’s property in Great Ormond Street in 1974 by Camden Borough Council are held in London Metropolitan Archives, ref. ACC/3499/EH/07/01/563; further details are available online via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

Millman Place

Also known as Ragdale Court/Ragdall Court

It was originally a small street off Millman Street opposite the southeast corner of Chapel Street, above Little James Street, on the border of the Foundling estate with the Rugby estate

The modern Millman Place follows the footprint of the original street along its east—west part, but the north–south section is entirely modern

It was listed (as Ragdale Court) in vol. 5 of London and its Environs Described in 1761

It appears in outline but is not named on Horwood’s maps of 1799 and 1819

It appears as Millman Place on the Ordnance Survey map of 1867–1870 and Weller’s map of 1868

It was presumably renamed after Sir William Milman (sic) (d. 1713) of Great Ormond Street, like the other streets of this name in the area

Its original name seems to have come from John Ragdale or Ragdall, owner of various properties in the Millman Place area: see the plan of the area in 1752 in the Crace Collection of maps at the British Library, ref. A X mass1686 (opens in new window)

Horwood’s maps of 1807 and 1819 show consecutive numbers from 2 to 5 on the south side of the street, running from west to east, and a no. 6 halfway up the street on the west side, accessed through an archway off Millman Street opposite the chapel

In the early nineteenth century it seems to have been respectable (perhaps because its address was usually given as “Millman Place, Bedford Row”)

It housed solicitors Thomas Jones and Sons from at least the 1830s to the 1850s

At some stage it was extended south from its eastern end towards Little James Street

It may be synonymous with the “Millman Court” demolished in the 1970s as a group of 1720s buildings then deemed too unsafe to remain standing (The Times, 4 May 2008)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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