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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Bedford Charity (Harpur) 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 Bedford Charity (Harpur) Estate

The Bedford Charity, also known as the Harpur Trust, was founded in the sixteenth century by Sir William Harpur, for the benefit of a school he had helped to found in Bedford (www.bedfordcharity.org.uk)

The original 13-acre site in the east of Bloomsbury which formed part of the original endowment is now reduced to a mere 3 acres, but is still worth millions (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

The original estate encompasses a crooked area south of the Rugby estate and north and east of Red Lion Square, including the southern half of what is now Lamb’s Conduit Street but was known as Red Lion Street until the late eighteenth century

Its proximity to already-developed areas to the south and east of Bloomsbury, including the legal centre of Gray’s Inn, meant that it was developed residentially much earlier than the western and northern areas of Bloomsbury, beginning in 1686

Much of the development was carried out by unscrupulous builder Nicholas Barbon, who built houses all over the Red Lion Fields area without necessarily obtaining the permission of the legal owner first (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Trust continues to own freeholds in Dombey Street, Bedford Row, New North Street, Sandland Street, Red Lion Street, and Theobald’s Road; it also invested in property in Eagle Street, outside the original estate boundaries, as a “vote of confidence in the present Estate’s future” (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

Richbell Place

Also known as Richbell Court

It is in the east of Bloomsbury, being a tiny passage off the west side of Emerald Street and originally leading right through to Lamb’s Conduit Street

It must have been on either the Bedford Charity or Rugby estate, probably the former, as it does not seem to feature on the 1752 plan or the 1814 schedule of the latter estate

It was was built in 1710 by John Richbell

It appears as Richbell Court on Cary’s map of 1795 and Horwood’s map of 1819, and as Richbell Place on Weller’s map of 1868

No numbers appear on Horwood’s map of 1819

It was entirely redeveloped in the twentieth century

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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