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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Bainbridge and Dyott Estate and Rookeries

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 Bainbridge and Dyott Estates and the Rookeries

Thomas Beames, writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, described the whole area of St Giles as the type of “the lowest conditions under which human life is possible”, but he was at a loss to explain why: it was not on the river (at that time a haunt of criminals), had not had sanctuary areas (which often became criminal rendezvous places) and had been a rich area in the seventeenth century (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

Beames further notes that “Bainbridge and Buckeridge Street were built prior to 1672, and derive their names from their owners, who were men of wealth in the time of Charles II.; as Dyott Street does its title from Mr. Dyott, a man of consideration in the same reign” (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

By the 1740s, however, the area had become the slum known as the Rookeries, inhabited by many poor Irish in particular, and with a reputation for crime as well as poverty (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

“The worst sink of iniquity was The Rookery,–-a place or rather district, so named, whose shape was triangular, bounded by Bainbridge Street, George Street, and High Street, St Giles’s. While the New Oxford Street was building, the recesses of this Alsatia were laid open partially to the public, the debris were exposed to view; the colony, called The Rookery was like an honeycomb, perforated by a number of courts and blind alleys, culs de sac, without any outlet other than the entrance” (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

A similar account of the maze of alleyways and building appears in Henry Mayhew’s account of his visit to the Rookery of St Giles in about 1860, in which he quotes from a manuscript by Mr Hunt, inspector of local lodging-houses, concerning the conditions in the area prior to the development of New Oxford Street through it in the 1840s (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ed Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2010)

According to this, “The ground covered by the Rookery was enclosed by Great Russell Street, Charlotte Street, Broad Street, and High Street, all within the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. Within this space were George Street (once Dyott Street), Carrier Street, Maynard Street, and Church Street, which ran from north to south, and were intersected by Church Lane, Ivy Lane, Buckeridge Street, Bainbridge Street, and New Street. These, with an almost endless intricacy of courts and yards crossing each other, rendered the place like a rabbit-warren...Both sides of Buckeridge Street abounded in courts, particularly the north side, and these, with the connected backyards and low walls in the rear of the street, afforded an easy escape to any thief when pursued by officers of justice” (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ed Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2010)

Beames in his account mentioned the original wealthy landowners of Bainbridge, Buckeridge, and Dyott; at the beginning of the nineteenth century, much of the area was still covered by the Bainbridge and Dyott estates, the latter of which was owned by a Thomas Skip Dyot Bucknall, so evidently two of the families were interconnected (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

Bucknall died in 1797, leaving four children, all daughters; his will settled his estate on his eldest daughter, Arabella Charlotte Dyot Bucknall, and her heirs male (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

If all his daughters died without male issue, the estate was entailed on “the heirs male of Richard Dyot of Freeford in the county of Stafford Esquire” so that “the said Dyot Estates and Property as before described, are not to be any ways divided or sold, but constantly held and enjoyed by a Dyot, the heir male of the said Richard Dyot for ever” (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

Arabella Dyot Bucknall attained her majority and married Thomas Hanmer in 1808; in 1815 they and other surviving members of the family succeeded in getting royal assent to an Act of Parliament designed to allow them to sell off the estate and use the money raised from the sale to buy land elsewhere which would be inherited according to the terms of Thomas Skip Dyot Bucknall’s will (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

The Act said that “the said Estate called the Dyot Estate, consists entirely of houses and buildings, situated in the parishes of Saint Giles in the Fields and Saint George Bloomsbury in the county of Middlesex, and Crucifix Lane Bermondsey in the county of Surrey, which are for the most part poor and mean, and many of them are in a very decayed state; so that great sums of money are or will be required to be laid out upon them to prevent their falling into ruin, and the same are liable to great hazard of loss or damage by fire and otherwise” (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

The estate was said at the time to be going to be settled on Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson and John Harding and their heirs (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

A schedule gives a listing of the property included within the estate, comprising nos 1–41 Dyot Street, Dyot Garden, nos 1–15 Church Lane, Winkworth Yard, Robinhood Court, Nicholas Court, Buckley Court, Whitehorse Yard, and parts of Phoenix Street, High Street, and Broad Street (ACC/1852/003, London Metropolitan Archives)

A further related document shows the estate as surveyed on 12 February 1851, prior to its being auctioned on 19 March 1851; it seems to occupy the same area as specified in the schedule, and shows the locations of some (but not all) of the tiny courts and yards named on that schedule (ACC/1852/007, London Metropolitan Archives)

Another plan (undated, but made after the construction of New Oxford Street in the 1840s and probably dating from the 1870s) describes the estate as “Lord Hanmer’s estate”, suggesting that the Dyot Bucknall family had not, after all, sold the land (ACC/1852/009, London Metropolitan Archives), while a further plan dated 1876 shows the combined estates of Dyott and Buckeridge, the property of John, Baron Hanmer (ACC/1852/010, London Metropolitan Archives)

The owner of the estate named on these plans is John, eldest son of Arabella (née Dyot Bucknall) and her husband Thomas Hanmer, a poet and politician, who was 3rd Baronet Hanmer from 1828 and 1st Baron Hanmer from 1872 until his death in 1881 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Buckeridge estate as shown jointly with the Dyott estate on this plan was much smaller, including houses along the north side of Church Lane between Church Street and George Street, and some houses on what was left of Carrier Street (ACC/1852/010, London Metropolitan Archives)

Although the whole area was affected by the construction of New Oxford Street in the 1840s, many of its streets survived this development and became even poorer and more crowded than before, as residents displaced by the development crowded into the remaining streets, courts, and alleys (Journal of the Statistical Society of London, vol. XI, March 1848)

In 1874 the area was still desperately in need of improvement, being still overcrowded and unhealthy; The Times reported that the Metropolitan Board of Works had obtained orders for the demolition of buildings in the yards of houses on the north and south sides of Church Lane, Carrier Street, and Church Street, along with the demolition in their entirety of Welch’s Court and Kennedy Court (The Times, 27 August 1874)

Throughout the twentieth century there was more redevelopment in the area, and in the early twenty-first century the 500,000 sq. ft Central Saint Giles project became the latest attempt to sweep away all the old buildings on the site and replace them with a modern and progressive urban environment (www.centralsaintgiles.com)

Shaftesbury Avenue

It runs from Piccadilly Circus northeast to New Oxford Street, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile

Only the part north of Broad Street lies within the Bloomsbury area; however, this has two branches

The Act authorising the Metropolitan Board of Works to construct Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, and make other improvements, was passed in 1877, although the desirability of a direct route from Piccadilly to Bloomsbury had been suggested many years earlier (Survey of London, vols 31–32, 1963)

It was planned by the Board’s chief architect, George Vulliamy, and engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette (Survey of London, vols 31–32, 1963)

Difficulties in rehousing all the residents displaced by the whole plan, legally required by the Act, led to a delay of several years; demolition and reconstruction eventually began from the south in 1884 (Survey of London, vols 31–32, 1963)

It opened in January 1886 and acquired its name in February 1886

The part of Shaftesbury Avenue which is within Bloomsbury was partly a new construction

One branch cut diagonally across the existing streets on a line continuing north from Dudley Street

The other branch continued roughly along the line of Charlotte Street and Plum Street to Broad Street

It was named after the Earl of Shaftesbury (who had died in 1885) as recognition of his work for the poor in slum areas including those cleared here

It was designed mainly as a through traffic route to ease congestion; most of the new buildings were commercial rather than residential

In the twentieth century it became particularly associated with London’s theatres, several of which are situated on its northern end (but south of Bloomsbury)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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