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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

Red Lion Square

It is in the south-east of Bloomsbury, between Theobald’s Road and High Holborn

It was developed in 1684 by Nicholas Barbon; its development famously provoked residents of Gray’s Inn to throw bricks at the builders, in addition to mounting unsuccessful legal challenges to the development of the area

It was developed on the 17-acre Red Lion Fields site, which itself was named after the pub of the same name in High Holborn

Horwood’s maps of 1807–1819 show numbering proceeding anti-clockwise from no. 1 on the west side, just south of Orange Street, to no. 38 on the north side, just east of Drake Street

At first sight, the numerous moves made by institutions from one address to another during the later nineteenth century in the square would seem to suggest some renumbering of properties; however, the numbering in the Post Office Directory of 1879 corresponds almost exactly to Horwood’s numbers, with the addition of no. 13A next to no. 12 west of Leigh Street, and the substitution of the church of St John the Evangelist for nos 4–5 in the southwest corner

In the eighteenth century it was generally a well-to-do residential square, popular with lawyers and doctors, although it also housed London’s first dispensary for the infant poor from 1769 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for George Armstrong)

The physician and playwright George Wallis died at his home here in 1802 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1817, of its 41 houses, 25 were occupied by professional men, including an impressive 10 solicitors, several medical men, a surveyor, a house agent, some merchants, a manufacturer of bedsteads and one of agricultural implements, and, at no. 11, A. G. Giese, the Prussian Consul-General in London (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

The architectural practice of W. Jenkins was here in the early 1820s, when engineer William Hosking was articled to him (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for William Hosking)

The portrait painter Henry Hoppner Meyer had his studio here in the 1820s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity had its first permanent premises at no. 13 from at least 1822

No. 35 was the birthplace of the historian William Noel Sainsbury in 1825 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Robert Owen’s London Co-Operative Society moved here from Burton Street in the 1820s; it was at no. 36 in 1827 (The Times, 11 September 1827)

A stationery and pen-manufacturing business owned by James and Stephen Perry (and later by Sir Josiah Mason) was based here in the 1820s and 1830s; Stephen Perry was the father of Stephen Joseph Perry, the Jesuit astronomer (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The author G. H. Lewes remembered being one of a group of students who met to discuss philosophy in a pub here in the 1830s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 20 was from the late 1830s the “Philanthropic Institution House” of David Nasmith, housing the offices of his Female Aid Society and Country Towns Mission; the Female Aid Society also ran a Home for Penitent Women in the stables behind the house

By 1841 no. 20 was the address of the Blind Indigent Visiting Society

No. 43 was the original location of the Hospital for Women from its foundation in 1842 until it moved to Soho Square in early 1852

From 1847 to at least 1851 no. 26 was the address of the Adult Deaf and Dumb Institution

No. 4 was from 1846 to 1850 the lithographic print shop of Isaac Basire (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; later it was the place where James Harrison demonstrated refrigeration in 1858

The historian Sharon Turner died at his son’s house here in 1847; he had earlier in life used the square as a base for his legal practice as it was convenient for the British Museum (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 27 was in 1850 the headquarters of the Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Mental Improvement and Religious Welfare of Jewesses and the Society for Promoting Industry and Religious Instruction amongst the Jews of Both Sexes

The painter Charles Leighton had his home here in the 1850s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 16 was in the 1850s the lithography business of Rymer & Co, run by author James Rymer and his son Francis (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 17 was in 1851 supposedly the home of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the same house was later (1856–1858) shared by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, with their housekeeper “Red Lion Mary”; the ecclesiastical historian Richard Dixon lodged with them briefly in 1857 prior to taking orders (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 10 (site now occupied by Proctor House North) was the first permanent home of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1853, after its foundation in 1844; it stayed until the mid twentieth century

No. 31 was the first home of the Working Men’s College in 1854; it moved to Great Ormond Street in 1857

In 1856 no. 22 was advertised as "J. Solomon's Wholesale American, English, and French Photographic and Optical Warehouse", with catalogues and price lists free on application (The Times, 20 June 1856)

No. 8 (site now occupied by Proctor House North) was the original site of the firm (“The Firm”) of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in the 1860s; there were both workshops and a retail outlet here

The Midnight Meeting Movement was based at no. 27 in 1862 and no. 5 in 1866; it had moved to no. 8A by 1879

No. 1 (site now occupied by Procter Street) was from at least the 1860s until about 1879 the London Infirmary for Diseases of the Legs, Ulcers and Varicose Veins; it is still listed there in the Royal Blue Book of 1879

From 1867 the Blind Indigent Visiting Society was based at no. 27

The Grand Lodge of Mark Masters, an independent group of Freemasons established in 1856, was based at no. 2 in the 1870s, according to the Royal Blue Book of 1873

The Monthly Tract Society was based at no. 5 in the 1870s, according to the Royal Blue Book of 1873, which also lists this address as the home of the UK Beneficent Society, which may or may not have been the same as the UK Benefit Society

The church of St John the Evangelist was built on the west side of the square in 1878

In 1878 the handwriting expert Charles Chabot gave no. 27 as his address when he testified in a forgery trial at the Old Bailey (Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 19 November 1878, John Alexander Falconer Donald, Albert Horton, and Thomas Ming, t18781118–17)

The British Asylum for Deaf and Dumb Females was based at no. 27 in the 1880s, although the Asylum itself was elsewhere

The Blind Indigent Visiting Society was still based at no. 27 in the 1880s; in 1884 it established a library at no. 8

No. 37 was the home of Edward Price, travelling salesman for the paper manufacturer Saunders, and his wife Emma (née Meech); their son, noted psychic investigator Harry Price, was born there in 1881 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 9 was the home of the ritualist High Anglican clergyman Richard Littledale, chaplain of the East Grinstead Sisterhood, who died there in 1890 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Midnight Meeting Movement was still at no. 27 in 1891

The University Tutorial College was here in the 1890s; H. G. Wells was among its teachers (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 13a (site now occupied by Summit House), the house occupied in the eighteenth century by marine chronologist John Harrison, became in 1898 the first home of St Paul’s Hospital for Skin and Genito-Urinary Diseases, founded in 1897

The Square was damaged by bombing in the Second World War; the church of St John the Evangelist was destroyed (site now occupied by Westminster University’s School of Law) and the Square was extensively redeveloped, along with its surrounding streets

Some eighteenth-century houses still survive on the southeast side

This page last modified 17 November, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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