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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Rugby 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 Rugby Estate

The estate was owned by Rugby School, founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school in Rugby, Warwickshire, by a bequest made by Lawrence Sherriff or Sherriffe, a Rugby-born London grocer (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

Sherriff’s founding bequest in 1567 included his eight-acre pasture in Conduit Close, at that time just half a mile outside the London city walls and therefore not allowed to be built on (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

At the time it seemed a poor substitute for the sum of money Sherriff had originally left for the foundation of the school in his will, reducing it in a codicil to £50 and adding this estate instead: “But to those few acres, then let for 8l. per annum, Rugby School is mainly indebted for its opulence and greatness” (Howard Staunton, The Great Schools of England, 1865)

The British Library holds a plan dating from 1752 of the estate in the Great Ormond Street area of Bloomsbury owned by the Rugby School (ref. Crace A X mass1686, Crace Collection of Maps of London, British Library)

It shows the the estate extending from Great Ormond Street east of Powis Place, along the southern and eastern edges of what would be Landsdown Mews, then apparently following the parish boundary (between St Pancras and St George the Martyr) east across Lamb’s Conduit Street, including Lamb Yard and Long Yard, and turning south at the north-east of Millman Street

It apparently included the western end of Little James Street and the north tip of Great James Street, as well as the eastern half of the extensive mews south of Great Ormond Street (Little Ormond Yard and part of Great Ormond Yard)

At this time, the part of what is now Lamb’s Conduit Street south of Great Ormond Street and north of Theobald’s Road, was still considered to be part of Red Lion Street and is shown as such on the plan

Residential development of the Conduit Close site began in the early eighteenth century, as the city spread north and west to reach it; the unscrupulous builder Nicholas Barbon, who negotiated with the Bedford Charity estate to develop it from 1684, found it convenient to build on the neighbouring Rugby estate at the same time (John Summerson, Georgian London: An Architectural Study, 1978)

His lease was taken over in 1702 by Sir William Millman, at which stage the annual rental from the estate was still small; however, extensive residential development during the eighteenth century meant that it was rising in value fast by the end of the century, a rise described by one commentator as “astonishing” (John Benjamin Heath, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, of the CIty of London, 1829)

By 1807 the annual rental income of the estate exceeded £2000 (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865)

An Act of 1814 by which the School applied for permission to build a chapel at Rugby School itself listed some 149 houses on its London estate, on Lamb’s Conduit Street, Chapel Street, Great Ormond Street, New Ormond Street, Milman Street, Great James Street, Ragdall Court (Millman Place), Lamp Office Court, Little Ormond Yard, Lamb’s Conduit Mews, and Feathers Mews, together with the Chapel on Chapel Street; in addition to rentals then worth £2378, large sums of money were apparently being received for the renewal of leases as they expired (Saturday Magazine, 16 April 1842)

The value of the estate apparently declined, however, from the 1820s, partly because the area became less popular as a residential quarter (‘Great Schools of England: Rugby,’ Educational Times, July 1865), and by the end of the nineteenth century, many of its houses were becoming dilapidated; Little Ormond Yard was a notorious slum area, demolished and replaced by Orde Hall Street in 1882

In the twentieth century, the estate benefitted from the sale of land to the ever-expanding Great Ormond Street Hospital, but failed to redevelop some of its older streets before new planning legislation made this impossible; “This left Rugby School with street upon street of large houses full of poor and often elderly tenants whose rents were too low to cover the cost of maintenance—and had been for several decades” (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

In 1974 the estate sold 42 freeholds to Camden Borough Council: 1–25 odd Millman Street, 2–16 even and 1–17 odd Great Ormond Street, and 8–30 even in Orde Hall Street (Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)

The poor condition of much of its Georgian housing stock, some of which was collapsing and much of which was being demolished in the 1970s, was said by architectural historian and preservationist Dan Cruickshank to have inspired him to begin a campaign for the protection of Georgian architecture (The Times, 4 May 2008)

Documents relating to the history of the estate, including copies of the founder’s will and codicil, and other legal papers, are held by Rugby School as part of their archives; a catalogue of the Rugby School archive holdings has been digitised by the National Archives (ref. NRA 5282) and is available online (opens in new window)

Documents relating to the acquisition of some of the estate’s property in Great Ormond Street in 1974 by Camden Borough Council are held in London Metropolitan Archives, ref. ACC/3499/EH/07/01/563; further details are available online via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

Great Ormond Street

Also known as Ormond Street (west of Lamb’s Conduit Street)/New Ormond Street (east of Lamb’s Conduit Street)

Not to be confused with Little Ormond Street

It is in the south-east of Bloomsbury, originally leading west from Queen Square to Lamb’s Conduit Street

It was developed in the late seventeenth century by Barbon and others, starting at the west end; Powis House was built off the north side of Ormond Street around 1700

The part east of Lamb’s Conduit Street, originally known as New Ormond Street, was developed in 1710–1720

It was named after the first Duke of Ormonde (sic), Charles I’s viceroy in Ireland

In the eighteenth century the street was “a very desirable address, the sizeable houses on its north side having had very long gardens backing onto open country” (David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998)

Its early residents included the Foundling Hospital’s chief physician, Richard Mead, and the Lord Chancellor Lord Thurlow lived there in 1784 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); no. 23 (south side; new number) was the home of prisoner reformer John Howard in the late eighteenth century

However, its houses were built to differing standards and styles by different builders, and some of them had become dangerously unsafe structures by the middle of the twentieth century; nos 9–15 were partly demolished in 1974 (Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London Buildings North, rev. edn, ed. Bridget Cherry, 1998)

No. 50 (old number) became the family home of the Macaulays in the 1820s due to their worsening financial situation; historian Thomas Babington lived there as a young man with his father Zachary, the businessman and anti-slavery campaigner (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 27 (south side; new number) was the home of the UK Benefit Society, founded 1828

There was a Servants’ School here in the 1850s; novelist Elizabeth Rundle Charles, who lived in nearby Tavistock Square, taught here (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 49 (old number) was the house formerly occupied by Richard Mead; it was rented by Charles West in 1852 as the first home of the Hospital for Sick Children (Great Ormond Street Hospital)

At the time, the street was not an entirely healthy environment: on 16 February 1852, when the Hospital for Sick Children was just opening at no. 49, a 22-year-old emigration agent died of typhus at no. 30, his disease said by the Registrar to have been caused by “foul air arising from the drains of the house” (The Times, 25 February 1852)

Despite this, another hospital soon joined the Hospital for Sick Children; nos 45–46 (old number) became the Catholic Hospital of SS John and Elizabeth, founded in 1856 by Cardinal Wiseman, next to the Catholic Church of St John of Jerusalem

No. 45 (old number), the former home of the Lord Chancellor, was the second home of the Working Men’s College when it moved from Red Lion Square in 1857; it later expanded into neighbouring no. 44 as well

No. 41 (north side; old number) was the home of William and Jane Morris until 1859, when they moved to the Red House in Bexleyheath

In 1859 the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital moved from Golden Square to the three houses at the end of Ormond Street next to Queen Square

No. 40 (north side; old number) was the Lincoln’s Inn and Temple Charity School in the 1860s

Nos 55–57 (south side; new number) was where William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877

In the 1880s Ormond Street and New Ormond Street were merged as Great Ormond Street and the houses renumbered

In 1893–1895 the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital replaced the original houses with a new purpose-built hospital building

Norton Chambers was built here in the 1890s but demolished in the twentieth century

In the twentieth century, the Hospital for Sick Children continued to expand, both rebuilding on its existing site and extending its ownership of property to the south side of the street

The name “Great Ormond Street” came to be synonymous with the Hospital

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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