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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings


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

Queen Square

Also known as Devonshire Square/Queen’s Square

Not to be confused with Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate, in the City of London, or with Queen Square, Westminster (demolished from the 1880s and replaced by Queen Anne’s Gate), or with Queen Square (also now vanished) next to Eldon Street, Finsbury, in the City of London

It is in the middle of Bloomsbury, on land originally owned by the Curzons of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

It was developed by Thomas Barlow and others between 1706 and 1720

In the late eighteenth century the Curzons sold the freeholds of a large number of the Square’s houses, enabling much more freedom in its future development

The church of St George the Martyr by Hawksmoor in the southwest corner (just) predates the building of the square itself, as may the Queen’s Larder pub, which dates from at least 1710

It was originally named in harmony with Devonshire Street which led up to it from Theobald’s Road

It was soon renamed in honour of the reigning monarch Queen Anne

Horwood’s map of 1819 shows consecutive numbers beginning with no. 2 on the west side of the square in the southwest corner, just north of the church of St George the Martyr, running anti-clockwise to no. 19 just south of Brunswick Place (Queen Square Place)

Horwood’s map of 1819 then shows three unnumbered houses north of Brunswick Place, with numbering recommencing at no. 21 just south of Guilford Street on the east side of the square to no. 36 on the corner with Great Ormond Street, then nos 37 to 39 south of Great Ormond Street, and finally nos 40 to 43 along the south side of the square, between Devonshire Street and Gloucester Street

It was developed as an aristocratic residential square

The evangelical clergyman John Harding, later Bishop of Bombay, was born here in 1805; his father was Chief Clerk in the Transport Office, and the family was well-to-do (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Residents of the square enjoyed views north over open fields until the residential development of the Foundling estate

The Roman historian Charles Merivale and his brother Herman Merivale played games in the gardens here during their childhood in nearby East Street prior to 1820 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 5 was the address of barrister Thomas (first Baron) Denman, until he could afford to move further up the social scale to Russell Square in the 1820s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 32 was the birthplace in 1823 of the schoolmaster and missionary to the poor Wharton Booth Marriott; his father was a barrister (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 26 was the home of the Times journalist, businessman, and Beethoven enthusiast Thomas Alsager from 1830; he held recitals of Beethoven here for the Queen Square Select Society, which in turn led to the foundation of the Beethoven Quartet Society (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1832 Robson’s Directory lists many solicitors here

In the 1840s the square was still occupied by many solicitors and barristers

The London Society for Teaching the Blind to Read had a school with resident blind pupils not only learning to read using an early form of raised type, but also practising crafts, at no. 38 between 1842 and 1848

No. 21 was the home of F. D. Maurice, founder of the Working Men’s College, from 1846 to 1856

The College of Preceptors was established at no. 42 in 1846 and remained there until 1882

The square’s first hospital, the obscure and short-lived Private Spinal Institution, was at no. 31 until about 1850

The Home for Gentlewomen moved to nos 25–26 from Harpur Street around 1851, and remained until 1872

The Ladies’ Charity School moved into no. 22 around 1859

The author and former Chairman of the Board of Stamps, James Sedgwick, died after a fall in the street here in 1851, having been dining at Queen Square House (obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, April 1851; the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography wrongly locates this occurrence in “Queen Street, Bloomsbury”)

From 1858 to 1864 the Presbyterian College, a training college for Nonconformist ministers, occupied no. 29, moving in 1864 to Queen Square House at the northeast end of the Square, where it stayed until 1899

The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women hired rooms in the square in 1860 to teach book-keeping and law-copying

In 1860 the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases opened at no. 24; by 1866 it had expanded into no. 23 as well

Shirley’s Temperance Hotel opened at no. 37 in the 1860s

The Female School of Art moved to no. 43 in 1861

The Working Women’s College was founded in 1864 at no. 29

Louisa Twining moved in to no. 20 in 1866, and took in epileptic and incurable women patients in her home under the name St Luke’s Home, during the 1860s and 1870s

From the 1860s to at least 1881 no. 31 housed the Catholic charities the Aged Poor Society and the Society of St Vincent de Paul

Dr Williams’s Library, the country’s foremost collection of Nonconformist literature, occupied no. 8 from 1865 to 1873

No. 26 was the home of William Morris’s Firm from 1865 to 1881, with an office, showroom, workshops, and a kiln, producing furniture, wallpaper, tapestries and fabrics, and illuminated manuscripts; the Morris family also lived here until 1872

In 1867 the House of Relief for Children with Chronic Disease of the Joints (later the Alexandra Hospital for Poor Children with Hip Disease) was opened at no. 19; it expanded into no. 18 in 1872 and no. 17 in 1872

In 1868 Gordon College opened here, although it seems to have closed within a few years

The church of St George the Martyr was extensively changed during renovations in 1868

Before 1869, nos 6 and 31 had been occupied by St Margaret’s Home and Industrial School for Girls, a Catholic charity

The Alexandra Institute for the Blind ran a home for adult blind women at no. 6 from 1869

No. 6 was the home of James Akerman’s printing and photolithography business in the 1870s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Anglican order of the Sisters of St Margaret of East Grinstead ran a hospital in their convent at no. 32 from 1873, later expanding into no. 33 as well, where they took in pupil-boarders for their School of Ecclesiastical Embroidery

No. 21 was home to Miss Mason’s Boys’ School in the 1870s, according to the Royal Blue Book of 1879

By 1879 the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases had expanded still further into no. 25; in the 1880s it demolished all three of its houses and replaced them with a purpose-built hospital building

No. 23 was the home of the Ladies’ Samaritan Society in the 1880s and 1890s

Shirley’s Temperance Hotel remained until the early twentieth century; novelist Thomas Hardy was one of its guests in 1888, and it also housed medical students from nearby University College

The Ladies’ Charity School was still at no. 22 in 1881

In 1881 a Home for Youths at no. 41, run by the Catholic charity the Society of Vincent de Paul, housed thirty mostly teenage boys who were employed as clerks, servants, and in various trades

In 1884 the Italian Hospital opened at no. 41, expanding later into no. 40 as well; in 1898–1899 it demolished both houses and replaced them with a purpose-built hospital building

In 1893 the Bessbrook Homes for Sandwich Men opened a home at no. 39, which remained until at least 1898

In 1899 the Alexandra Hospital for Poor Children with Hip Disease demolished the three houses it occupied in the square (and adjacent properties in Queen Square Place) and replaced them with a purpose-built hospital building

The Working Women’s College was still at no. 29 until 1901, although it had been forced to become co-educational as the College for Men and Women in the 1870s

The Female School of Art remained at no. 43 until it was subsumed into the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1908

The Jews’ College moved into Queen Square House in 1900 from Dickens’s old house, Tavistock House, Tavistock Square; it remained until the 1930s

Its non-institutional residents in the 1901 census were mainly surgeons, artists, novelists (the Christian mystic novelist Laurie Lansfeldt shared no. 2 with the journalist and author Edith Stewart Drewry), and architects

In about 1902 Rossie House, one of the “Homes for Working Boys” established by Tom Pelham, Arthur Kinnaird, and Quintin Hogg, moved to no. 16 from its previous home in Lamb’s Conduit Street

The north side of the square was built on for the first time in the 1930s, when Queen Court mansion flats were erected next to what became Queen Anne’s Walk

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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