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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

Red Lion Passage

Also known as Phoenix Street

Not to be confused with Phoenix Street in the Rookeries, or with Red Lion Passage off Fleet Street, the eighteenth-century home of many publishers, which is also no longer extant

It was in the south-east of Bloomsbury, and was a short street leading from the southeast corner of Red Lion Square to Red Lion Street

It was developed as Phoenix Street by the end of the eighteenth century; it appears as such on Cary’s map of 1795

It appears on Horwood’s map of 1799 as Red Lion Passage

It was presumably renamed for its location leading into Red Lion Square; the origin of its former name is unknown

Horwood’s map of 1819 shows on the south side consecutive numbers from 1 to 10 running from east to west, and on the north side, consecutive numbers from 11 to 18, running from west to east

There was a pub here, the Queen’s Arms, from at least 1816 (The Times, 11 September 1816), and a greengrocer at no. 17 (The Times, 16 October 1817)

The latter must have just moved in, not being listed in Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory of 1817; this guide gives a picture of a street mainly concerned with specialist manufacture and occupation, including an ostrich feather warehouse at no. 6, a straw hat manufactory at no. 7, and a table knife manufactory at no. 9, as well as a poulterer at no. 11 and elsewhere a painter, a stationer, a haberdasher, and a clock maker (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

In the middle of the century avertisements in The Times suggest it was still occupied by many tradesmen

By the late nineteenth century it appears to have deteriorated; in 1892 an inquest drew attention to the insanitary conditions in a “large, old house” there which was “owned by an Italian named Tacchi, and let out in tenements” (The Times, 23 September 1892)

The inquest concerned the death of Ada Ludbrook, aged 3, who had died of diphtheria; previous occupants of the house had also died of diphtheria, but it had not been made properly sanitary, and the inquest recommended immediate action by a sanitary inspector (The Times, 23 September 1892)

It was demolished after being bombed during the Second World War and the site was redeveloped for flats, although the ghostly outline of part of the street is still visible on satellite photographs

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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