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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

Powis Place

It is in the east of Bloomsbury, leading north off Great Ormond Street as a small cul-de-sac

It was developed at the end of the eighteenth century after the demolition of Powis House shortly after 1784 (Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London Buildings North, rev. edn, ed. Bridget Cherry, 1998)

It originally provided an approach to Powis House, built in the 1690s and rebuilt after being burned down in 1714

The house was set back from Great Ormond Street and the gardens behind it ran through to Powis Wells, a fashionable spa which stood on the south side of where Guilford Street now is

Powis House was built for the second Marquess of Powis; the replacement street took its name from the house

Horwood’s maps of 1799, 1807, 1813, and 1819 all show the same numbering system: on the west side, consecutive numbers from 1 to 10, running from south to north, and no. 11 at the top of the cul-de-sac

There was a single building on the west side behind no. 49 Great Ormond Street but Horwood’s maps shade this as if it is a Mews; it is not numbered

The street was a development aimed at the well-to-do

No. 2 was home from 1812 until his death in 1815 of the merchant Antony Gibbs (brother of Sir Vicary Gibbs) and his wife Dorothea (née Hucks); his grandson Henry Hucks Gibbs (first Baron Aldenham) was born here in 1819, when the house was presumably home to the widow and her eldest son and his wife (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The architect James Lewis died in a house here in 1820

No. 10 was the home in the 1830s of the legal author Henry Roscoe and his wife Maria (née Fletcher); their son Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, the dissenter and pioneer chemist, was born here in 1833 but brought up in Liverpool, although he returned to the area for education at University College in 1848 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

From the 1850s until 1861 Peter Alfred Taylor and his wife Clementia (née Doughty) kept open house for leading radicals, particularly Italians, at their home here (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 6 was the home of caricaturist John Leech before 1854 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Home for Friendless Girls run by the Female Aid Society had moved here by 1865

The Home for Friendless Girls was still at no. 11 in the Post Office Directory of 1879, when its neighbours included the gun case maker Lauret Holmes at no. 5 and Walter Worsdell, currier, at no. 6

It still maintained its residential character, although its houses were converted into flats, and they remained overshadowed both literally and figuratively by the hospitals on each side, the Homeopathic and the Children’s

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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