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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 Street

Also known as Harpe Street/Theobald’s Court

It is in the south-east of Bloomsbury, running from East Street to Theobald’s Road

It had 21 houses by 1817 (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

It appears as Theobald’s Court on Rocque’s map of 1746, presumably after Theobald’s Road

It was renamed after Sir William Harpur, on whose estate it stands

On Cruchley’s map of 1827, it appears as “Harpe Street”

In 1817 it housed several solicitors and merchants, as well as a surgeon-accoucheur (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

American engineer Angier March Perkins established his business here in 1828 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1832 its residents were mainly solicitors, according to Robson’s Directory of that year

The Home for Gentlewomen opened in November 1849 at no. 5 Harpur Street, but these premises were too small, and it moved soon afterwards to 25 and 26 Queen Square (advertisement in The British Metropolis in 1851: A Classified Guide to London)

The street was rebuilt around 1883

From at least 1887 nos 7–9 formed the headquarters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Cardinal Gasquet lived here with his mother in the late 1880s while studying monastic history (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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