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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)

Harpur Mews

Also known as Bedford Court/Harpur’s Mews

Not to be confused with Bedford Court off New North Street, or with the numerous other Bedford Courts in London

It had been developed by the middle of the eighteenth century; Rocque’s map of 1746 names Harpur Mews as “Bedford Court”, and also uses this name for the narrow passageway leading from Lamb’s Conduit Street to Harpur Mews, and Cary’s map of 1795 shows the same

This part of Bloomsbury is missing from Horwood’s maps (between map sheets) but by the time of Elmes’s Topography of London (1831), the only Bedford Court in Bloomsbury was the one off New North Street, and Harpur Mews was known as Harpur’s Mews; the way through to it from Lamb’s Conduit Street is not named on maps

Its original and subsequent name both come from the estate on which it stands

Horwood’s maps of 1807–1819 show consecutive numbers from 1–6 running in an L shape south down the west side and east along the south side

The 1841 census has records for numbers from 1–9

It was presumably designed as the Mews for parallel Harpur Street

James Soanes had a stationery business here in the late nineteenth 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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