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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Southern Boundary of Bloomsbury

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

Area of fragmented ownership

The area extending north from High Holborn east of the Bedford estate boundary at Southampton Row and King Street, being nearer to the city of London, was developed much earlier than the fields to its north

The major landowners in the east of this area were Gray’s Inn, and the Bedford Charity, Doughty, and Rugby estates, all of which also began developing their land in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century

Nicholas Barbon, who was the first major speculative builder in the area, laid out Red Lion Square itself as well as many of the streets further north and east; it is not clear who owned the land of Red Lion Fields on which the Square was built

To its north, Queen Square and surrounding land was part of an estate owned by the Curzons of Kedleston, Derbyshire, also developed in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, but sold off by about 1779 to pay off debts

Queen Square and Red Lion Square in particular, as well as the smaller streets in the area around them, thus became attractive locations in the nineteenth century to institutions which would have found it more difficult to establish themselves on the surrounding estates with their restrictions on non-residential and commercial tenants

Along the borders of Bloomsbury, the increasing importance of Euston Road, Gray’s Inn Road, High Holborn, and Tottenham Court Road as through traffic routes meant that they became more unified and coherent as streets, despite the multiplicity of estates whose land they had originally incorporated; as their residential significance to those estates waned, so they too became easier targets for institutions

High Holborn

Not to be confused with Holborn, the street which continues its line east of Gray’s Inn Road

It is part of the southern boundary of Bloomsbury, running from Gray’s Inn Road in the east to High Street in the west

It had developed by the seventeenth century as the main road west of the City of London, with associated ribbon development of businesses and some houses

Horwood’s maps show the numbering system as follows: on the north side, consecutive numbers from 1 to 169, running from east to west, with nos 1–3 east of Gray’s Inn Road, and no. 169 at its western end on the corner with Museum Street; and on the south side, consecutive numbers from (presumably) 170 to at least 320, running from east to west

It was principally designed as a traffic route, accompanied by ribbon commercial and some residential development

Its businesses by the end of the eighteenth century were mainly places of refreshment and entertainment, lodgings, booksellers and libraries, printers and publishers, engravers, gunsmiths, watchmakers, and glass warehouses

In the early nineteenth century it was occupied by many haberdashers and other clothiers, booksellers and stationers, silversmiths and jewellers, retailers of food and other necessities, and manufacturers of toys, organs, ironware, clocks, guns, and blacking (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

No. 119 was the workshop and retail premises of controversial chronometer Thomas Earnshaw (after whom Earnshaw Street is named); he had succeeded to the workshop here in 1792 after being apprenticed to its former owner William Hughes (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The radical engineer Alexander Galloway tried to establish an engineering business here after his release from Newgate prison in 1801 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The shorthand pioneer James Henry Lewis taught shorthand at no. 104 in the early nineteenth century (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); Lewis’s Cranio-Logical Lecture on Shorthand: A Comic Entertainment, in Three Parts, Blending Instruction with Amusement was republished in 2008

No. 97 was the business premises from 1801 of Charles Day and Benjamin Martin, manufacturers of high-class boot-polish (blacking) and pioneers of advertising (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Charles Day bought out Martin in 1808 and continued to trade from no. 97, where he also ultimately died in 1836 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography), although a case relating to his testamentary dispositions was still in prerogative court in 1853, when it was obliquely referred to in the preface to Dickens’s Bleak House

No. 145 belonged to gold- and silversmith Thomas Vincent, whose son Henry Vincent, the radical, was born there in 1813; in 1821 the business failed and the family moved away (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 125 was the bookshop of Thomas King junior in 1814 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for John Price)

The first Thomas Earnshaw retired around 1815, but his son Thomas Earnshaw continued the watchmaking business at no. 119 until 1854 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Artist Henry Sass had a studio here until about 1818; at least two of his daughters were also artists (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 54 became in 1823 the ironmonger’s shop of Joseph Nettlefold, later a very successful screw manufacturer (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The famous boxer Thomas Winter (“Tom Spring”) took over the Castle pub at no. 25 in 1828 from Tom Belcher, having retired from the ring; he died there in 1851 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 227 was the home of scientific instrument maker William Elliott from 1827 until 1833; he subsequently lived and traded from no. 268 High Holborn from 1835 to 1849 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Augustus Siebe, Prussian-born engineer and later the inventor of what became a standard diving-suit, worked as a watchmaker and silversmith at no. 145 until 1829 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 89 was the business premises of French-born pioneer photographer Antoine Claudet, who had a glass shop and daguerreotype studio here from 1829 until the 1840s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 59 was the business of architectural bookseller and publisher Isaac Taylor until his death in 1834; the business was then bought by John Weale, who expanded the business (now called the “Architectural Library”) into engineering as well as architecture (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 121 was the birthplace in 1839 of architect Henry Davis, who worked mainly for the poor, including commissions by the East End Dwellings Co (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In the early 1840s many of the slum areas of the Rookeries around its western end were compulsorily purchased and swept away to make New Oxford Street, a straight street joining High Holborn with Oxford Street

No. 160 was the address of the tailor and later wine merchant Jacob Magnus and his wife Caroline (née Barnett), whose son Sir Philip Magnus, the educational reformer, was born there in 1842 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1842 the Chartist organisation the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People under the leadership of William Lovett opened a National Hall here, although it rapidly degenerated from a debating club into a dancing club (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); in 1857 they were evicted and the building became a gin palace

No. 30 became in 1843 the first bookshop of Bradley Thomas Batsford, whose business became the most successful in his bookselling family; the shop later moved to no. 52 High Holborn and subsequently in 1893 to no. 94 High Holborn (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 48 was the business premises of publisher and bookseller John Petheram from about 1848 until his death of typhus fever in 1858 at no. 94 High Holborn (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 190½ was the business premises from 1850 to 1852 of William Horsell, advocate of vegetarianism and campaigner against alcohol and tobacco, who later moved his business premises to New Oxford Street (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 96 was the address of Edward Emery, glassmaker and silverer, who died here in 1851; he may have been the numismatist and forger of the same name (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In the 1850s no. 114 was the home of the watercolour painter William Henry Kearney; he died here in 1858 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Princess Louise pub (named after one of Queen Victoria’s daughters) opened at nos 208–209 in 1872; it was listed in 1973

No. 28 was the business premises in the 1870s of James Spratt’s dog-food business, Spratt’s Patent Ltd, where dog show founder Charles Cruft worked as sales and office manager (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In the 1880s no. 113 was an address of H. Lamplough Ltd, manufacturers of Lamplough’s Pyretic Saline (Charles Dickens (jr), Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1888: An Unconventional Handbook, 1888)

In the 1880s no. 323 was the address of Moring, the monumental mason (The Times, 14 November 1881)

In the 1880s no. 218 was the “recently re-constructed and palatial Holborn Restaurant” where the table d’hôte dinner cost 3s 6d and was accompanied by “a selection of first-class instrumental music” performed by “an efficient band” (Charles Dickens (jr), Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1888: An Unconventional Handbook, 1888)

No. 278 was by the 1880s a vegetarian restaurant, the Porridge Bowl (Charles Dickens (jr), Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1888: An Unconventional Handbook, 1888)

The controversial author John Wilson Ross died at his home here in 1887 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Gwydir Chambers was built at no. 104 High Holborn in 1900–1903

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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