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Dec 13th, 2013 | | Portfolio | Private Houses | Residences | No Comments

John Street, Bloomsbury

16 John Street

John Street is in the south-east of London’s Bloomsbury, running north from Theobald’s Road to Guilford Street. Building started in 1754 and the upper west side had been developed by 1760 (nos 34–36 survive from this earliest development); the remainder was slowly completed by around 1800. The street was named after John Blagrave,1 a carpenter employed by Henry Doughty.2

It was an upmarket development designed for the wealthy however in the nineteenth century:

“…its fine ‘first rate’ houses, built for affluent Georgian families, were converted into offices for charities and trade associations; for solicitors, accountants, quantity surveyors, and the occasional publisher.”3

For much of the last 200 years John Street seems to have been associated with religious organisations. In the twentieth century No. 3 was the home of the Africa Inland Mission, a nondenominational Christian mission organisation focusing on Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean. No. 19 became (and still remains) the home of the Open Air Mission, founded here in 1853. The Ragged School Union (later The Shaftesbury Society) was a Christian charity that had its headquarters at No. 32 from 1914.

John Street view

A view along John Street


On the site of No. 21a was the John Street Chapel which was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War. This opened in 1818 as a Baptist chapel and was built for the eloquent and controversial preacher James Harington Evans. It was the chapel where the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel preached to crowded congregations, after his secession from the Established Church in 1848.

“He had previously been for several years the minister of the Episcopal Chapel of St. John, which stood in Chapel Street, Great James Street, at the north end of Bedford Row.4 The old chapel, which was pulled down soon after Mr. Noel left it, was a plain square brick building, and may be described as having been for half a century the head-quarters of fashionable Evangelicalism, for the string of carriages waiting at its doors about one o’clock on Sundays sometimes extended the entire length of the street. In the early part of the present century the minister of St. John’s Chapel was the Rev. Daniel Wilson, afterwards vicar of Islington, and eventually Bishop of Calcutta.”5

No. 30 was the home from 1847 of the Ladies’ Charity School (founded 1702), which trained poor girls for domestic service, until it moved to Queen Square in 1858.

No. 10 was the home of Holborn’s first public library from 1891. This was the predecessor to the current library, which was built on Theobald’s Road in 1960.

I was asked to advise on the use of paint and colour for No. 16 John Street, which had been converted into offices, but may soon move back to residential occupation. This part of London has many eighteenth century houses and I have been involved in much work of this kind.

An album of some recent projects can be seen here.

Much of this has been taken from The UCL Bloomsbury Project, which is an invaluable source of information on this part of London.

Notes
1Blagrave’s name also comes up in connection with No. 9 South Audley Street, where in 1738 he took out a lease on the site.
2Henry Doughty had inherited the land from his forebears, the Brownlows. William Brownlow, who began Brownlow Street, was the father of Elizabeth Doughty.
3(David Hayes, East of Bloomsbury, 1998).
4 In recent years I have carried out work on two houses in Bedford Row – No. 8 and No. 13.
5Edward Walford, ‘Red Lion Square and neighbourhood’, in Old and New London: Volume 4 (London, 1878), pp. 545-553

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