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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

City of London Corporation 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 City of London Corporation Estate

This small estate was owned by the City of London Corporation from the seventeenth century but remained undeveloped until the beginning of the nineteenth century (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

There are plans of the estate dating from c. 1799 and 1899 in London Metropolitan Archives (COL/CCS/PL/01/091 and COL/PLD/PL/01/0728)

In 1900 The Times reported on plans by the Corporation to change the layout of the estate when most of the leases expired in 1902 (The Times, 20 December 1900)

The plans involved abolishing the two crescents, which were described as “quite out of date,” replacing them with extensions of Alfred Place northwards to Alfred Mews, which was to be widened, and southwards to a new, also wide street, running into Tottenham Court Road (The Times, 20 December 1900)

Although this had been approved by the old St Giles District Board of Works and the new London County Council, and the resistance of some of the leaseholders was futile given that the leases were about to expire, for some reason, the plans were never carried out (The Times, 20 December 1900)

Alfred Place

Not to be confused with the Alfred Place in South Kensington, the one in Blackfriars, or any of the numerous other streets of the same name in London

It was built in the early nineteenth century, to a design by George Dance, who may have adapted his Port of London scheme (published 1802) for the purpose (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

According to Pevsner, it was finished by 1810 (Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London Buildings North, revised edition, 1998) and Johnstone’s Commercial Directory of 1817 said it then had 39 houses, although it only listed two occupants (one being the plasterer Francis Bernasconi)

Horwood’s map of 1799 shows a few scattered buildings on the site, perhaps associated with the premises towards the north end named as Cox’s Gardens

Alfred was apparently the first name of its builder (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)

On the west side: consecutive numbers from 1 to 19, running from south to north

On the east side: consecutive numbers from 20 to 39, running from north to south

It supposedly formed a prestige development, together with North Crescent and South Crescent at each end (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

It seems to have been a prestigious address at the beginning, as it was planned to be

An early distinguished resident was the ornamental plasterer Francis Bernasconi, who took a 99-year lease of no. 19 (the top house on the west side) in 1806 (The Times, sales advertisement, 6 July 1853) and lived there until his death; he worked with the estate’s architect, George Dance, on the alterations to Ashburnham Place, Sussex, in 1817 (East Sussex Record Office collections, ASH/2847)

The artist Alfred Clint was born here in 1807; his father was also a successful painter (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 25 was the birthplace in 1810 of Henry Alford, later Dean of Canterbury, whose father was an evangelical clergyman and whose mother died at his birth (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 1 was briefly home in early 1813 to the novelist Fanny Burney, according to her Letters; at the time she was recovering from breast cancer and about to see her son off to Cambridge (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1821 no. 25 was the address of the painter, novelist, and royal impostor Olivia Serres, née Wilmot, the “Princess of Cumberland” (according to a letter dated 17 September 1821 published in The Times on 3 January 1825)

The street still looked good; in James Elmes’s Topographical Dictionary of London and its Environs, published in 1831, it was described as “a handsome street, terminated by two crescents”

However, by 1830 there was at least one boarding-house in the street, according to the case Cleary v Dixon reported in The Times on 8 July 1830; Mrs Dixon had moved into this boarding-house, kept by the Clearys, in December 1829 at a rate of £120 per annum, but found it so awful she left less than a month later

“Among the witnesses examined were a lady of colour and a young gentleman, a student at law, who had boarded and lodged in the house during the time that the defendant was there” (The Times, 8 July 1830)

Though the Clearys had three lawyers including Lord Brougham, there was enough evidence for the defence to discredit their case

By mid-century, its inhabitants were mostly middle-class and professional

The resident of no. 24 in 1837 was Rev. John Hoppus, Professor of Philosophy at UCL

The dramatist James Sheridan Knowles, lived at no. 29; his father, lexicographer James Knowles, died here in 1840 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; 1841 Post Office Directory)

In 1841, the other residents included lawyers, a governess agent, a silversmith and watchmaker, a carver and gilder, and the architect and surveyor Thomas Percy (1841 Post Office Directory)

In 1845 the Unitarian poet Mary Anne Jevons (née Roscoe), mother of the economist William Stanley Jevons, died at no. 37; this may have been the home of her brother, a doctor (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The 1851 residents were increasingly eclectic, including three surgeons and a dentist, a professor of languages, a pianist, a sculptor, an upholsterer, and a maker of French stays, as well as lawyers and the governess agent; there were also four lodging-houses (1851 Post Office Directory)

Francis Bernasconi also remained until his death in 1841; he seems to have rebuilt his house in his own style, according to advertisements for the sale of the lease in 1852 and 1853

His house was described as “well adapted for a pianoforte manufacturer, builder, engineer, statuary, or indeed any business requiring show rooms, workshops, stables, and gateway entrance” (The Times, 22 July 1852)

The premises had passed to Bartholomew Bernasconi on the death of Francis in 1841, but Bartholomew himself was dead by 1852 and the sale was on behalf of his estate

A later advertisement speaks of “two handsome well-proportioned drawing rooms with folding-doors, enriched cornices, gold mouldings, marble chimney-pieces, [and] iron balcony the whole length of the front in Alfred-place”; the ground rent was £22 per annum and the fixtures were included in the sale (The Times, 6 July 1853)

1861 residents included four surgeons and a physician, a ladies’ school, some lawyers, an engraver, a dressmaker, an educational and clerical agency, a widow’s capmaker, and no fewer than nine lodging-houses (1861 Post Office Directory)

The educational and clerical agency, Fisher & Co, occupied the extensive former Bernasconi property, no. 19; the Fisher family had apparently also been running schools for both boys and girls for some time (The Times, 5 April 1860, 12 April 1860, 24 April 1860)

The new inhabitant of no. 17 was John Hewetson, who by 1871 had also established the upholstery firm of Hewetson & Milner at nos 16–17; this firm, which subsequently became Hewetson, Milner & Thexton Ltd, stayed in Alfred Place with additional extensive premises in Alfred Mews for the next thirty years

By 1871, Alfred Place was dominated by lodging-houses, now numbering twelve; one lodger was the heraldic artist Robert Ockleston (1871 Post Office Directory)

Other occupants included a language teacher, two jewellers, two lawyers, the University Tavern public house, Miss Ruth’s school, a language teacher, and a Young Women’s Christian Institute at no. 1 (1871 Post Office Directory)

By the end of the century, the lawyers had disappeared, and the lodging-houses had all but taken over (along with a new variation, apartment houses)

1881 residents included a teacher of music, the same teacher of languages, a new ladies’ school, an artist, two jewellers, and eleven lodging-houses (1881 Post Office Directory)

One flat, at no. 8, was home to Russian scholar William Ralston, who was forced to move out in 1888 and shortly thereafter killed himself (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

There were fourteen lodging-houses and apartment houses in 1891, along with a Young Men’s Catholic Association at no. 33, another upholsterer (Bartholomew & Fletcher), the Gauci sisters, artists, two jewellers, a violin maker, a (different) music teacher, a photographic enameller, and a boot maker

When George Duckworth walked the street with PC R. J. French as part of Charles Booth’s investigations into poverty in 1898, he described it as “a bad macadam road (very rare about here where all is asphalt)” with “some places of doubtful character”; its houses were boarding-houses and “less good than formerly” (Booth B355, 17 October 1898)

In the twentieth century the street layout on the estate was criticised; an article in The Times spoke disparagingly of the crescents at each end of Alfred Place (“quite out of date”) and reported that the City of London Corporation intended to replace both North and South Crescent with new extensions to Alfred Place itself, as the majority of the leases fell in on Lady Day 1902 (The Times, 20 December 1900)

In 1901, there were eighteen apartment houses, yet another different music teacher, one jeweller, the two upholsterers, the pub, and a dressmaker, along with Steer & Jeffrey, “artists in hair”, at no. 32, and Paul Hardy, cycling promoter, at no. 27

The street belatedly became the home of a reforming institution in 1909, when new premises for Lily Montagu’s West Central Jewish Working Girls’ Club were opened there (The Times, 16 June 1909)

The premises housed forty friendless girls and had a cheap restaurant which was non-denominational; formerly in Dean Street, Soho, its move to Alfred Place meant it was “brought under the same roof as the Emily Harris Home, which provides comfortable lodgings for 50 working girls at moderate charges”(The Times, 4 February 1914)

The street’s buildings were all demolished in the early twentieth century, and the area redeveloped (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914)

In 2008, all that remained of the original street was its footprint (it was still extremely wide) and numbering system


This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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