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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Western 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

Tottenham Court Road

It forms the western boundary of Bloomsbury, running north from High Street to Euston Road

It developed along the line of an old market road which led north from the parish of St Giles through the fields around the Tottenhall manor house; a corruption of the latter gave it its name

It had reached Euston Road by 1800

It was originally known for its inns and the windmill after which Windmill Street is named; there was also a famous boxing venue (the Great Booth) there in the eighteenth century, associated with Tottenham Court Fair

There was an Adam and Eve pub (with famous tea gardens) at the north end by the middle of the eighteenth century

The street had become a favourite place for balloon ascents by the end of the eighteenth century

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, its west side was already unsavoury, particularly around the area of Whitfield Chapel (then the largest Nonconformist church in the world) whose burial grounds were notorious for bodysnatchers

The painter Charles Bentley was born here around 1805 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 7 was the home of bank clerk William Hewson, father of the theological writer of the same name, in 1806 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 195 was the piano-makers and music publishers Clementi (and Collard) from 1806; the factory burned down in 1807

The lexicographer John Walker died here in 1807 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1809 Meux’s Horseshoe Brewery was built on the site of a much smaller Blackburn and Bywell brewery on the east side at the south end of the street; in 1814 a giant vat at the brewery burst, destroying 3 adjacent buildings and killing eight people

The “Bay Tree” pub where the impostor “Princess Caraboo” (really Mary Baker, née Willcocks) was in service when she became pregnant in 1816 was named as the Crab Tree, kept by Mrs Clark, in Gutch’s account of her life and probably stood near Goodge Street, formerly Crabtree Street (J. M. Gutch, Caraboo: A Narrative of a Singular Imposition, 1817)

In 1817 its 268 houses were home to an impressive array of manufacturers, merchants, and services, most of them focused on the household; you could buy or order everything from fine clothes, corsets, hats, parasols, gloves, and footwear, to upholstery, china, fine furnishings, ironwork, ivory, gold, varnishes, and cornicing for your home, as well as groceries, candles, wine, snuff, stationery, and mathematical and musical instruments (Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817)

No. 203 (formerly a saddlery and harness makers, according to Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide, and Street Directory, 1817) became in 1818 the new home of Heal’s furniture and furnishings store, later run by Heal’s widow

His son John Harris Heal junior later moved the business to 196 (stables backing on to what was still farmland of Cantelowes Close) and he lived in the neighbouring eighteenth-century farmhouse. The store expanded by buying adjacent premises, but the farmhouse was not demolished until 1916, when the present store was built by Smith and Brewer, architects of the Passmore Edwards settlement (Brewer was cousin to Ambrose Heal, great-grandson of the store’s founder)

Nos 151–162 were Shoolbred’s, a draper’s, from 1820; by the 1850s it had developed into a department store

The west side continued to be used as an ash tip in the nineteenth century; some of its buildings are still unstable as a result

“Charles Dickens, as a boy, when living at Camden Town, and acting as a drudge at the blacking shop at Hungerford Stairs, used to frequent the secondclass pastry-cooks along this route, and spend his coppers on stale buns at half-price” (Edward Walford, Old and New London, vol. 4, 1878)

In 1832, according to Robson’s Directory, it was still home to a full range of manufacturers and dealers of household items, along with 19 pubs: the Blue Posts, the Black Horse, the Rising Sun, the Red Lion, the Rose and Crown, the Talbot, the King’s Arms, the Bull’s Head, the Rose, the Northumberland Arms, the Old Southampton Arms, the Plasterers Arms, the Mortimer Arms, the New Inn, the Apollo, the White Hart, the Bedford Head, the Fox and Hounds, and the Horse Shoe Trap

No. 145 was from 1841 the draper’s and furnishings store Maple & Cook, founded by John Maple; his son, Sir John Blundell Maple, became the major benefactor of the project to rebuild University College Hospital, adjoining his premises, from 1897 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The Whitfield Chapel burial grounds became a health hazard and were closed off in 1853

The Progressive Society of Carpenters and Joiners met at the Rose and Crown pub here in the mid nineteenth century

The grand Horseshoe Hotel opened here in 1875

No. 73 was from 1875 the National Training School of Dancing, established by James Mapleson; it was run from 1876 and later owned by dancer and choreographer Katti Lanner

By the end of the nineteenth century, the street had acquired a better reputation with its many furniture and furnishings stores; it was also one of the first streets to gain electric lighting, in 1892

A purpose-built factory was opened in Tottenham Court Road for the Blind Institute in 1893

No. 54A was the birthplace in 1896 of the poet Edmund Blunden; his parents were both schoolteachers, but the family moved to Kent when he was four (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1898 the Apollo and the Muses pub was built on the corner with Torrington Place (site now occupied by the extended Heal’s shop)

In 1900 Messrs Hewetson, Milner, and Thexton, who occupied a large site on the east side of Tottenham Court Road owned by the City of London Corporation, were under threat from plans by the Corporation to redevelop their land as the leases expired (The Times, 20 December 1900)

However, the plans were not carried out, and in 1901 Messrs Hewetson, Milner, and Thexton were granted a new 80-year lease at the rent of £3000 pa (The Times, 13 December 1901)

This represented an enormous increase of £2300 pa on the previous rental (The Times, 13 December 1901), and it apparently proved too much for the company; in 1907 all their stock was sold off and the premises at 209–212 Tottenham Court Road cleared (The Times, 13 May 1907)

No. 53 was the home of violinist Joseph Mayerl and his wife Elise (née Umbach); their son, musician and composer Billy Mayerl, was born there in 1902 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Residential and commercial development from the south end was interspersed with remnants of the original farmland into the twentieth century

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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