Peabody Estate, Herbrand Street, London WC1


“Herbrand Street estate in Bloomsbury opened in February 1885…Four pairs of blocks were built round a central courtyard, and originally they contained 205 dwellings, with a total of 450 rooms. Some dwellings consisted of a single room, and before 1900 the average wage of tenants in these single rooms was less than £1 per week….Early records show that in the 1880s most tenants worked within walking distance of their homes. Department stores on Tottenham Court Road, the British Museum, Crosse and Blackwell’s in Soho Square and the Meux Brewery all employed several residents from the estate.”

From the website of the UCL Bloomsbury Project:

Little Coram Street: Also known as Herbrand Street. It was on the western edge of the Foundling estate, bordering the Bedford estate, and ran south from Tavistock Place to Great Coram Street. It was developed in the early nineteenth century; it does not appear on Horwood’s map of 1799, but it is shown fully developed on his map of 1807. On the OS map of 1867–1870, the only egress shown from the north end of the street into Tavistock Place is through an archway by a pub.

By the late nineteenth century, it had become a slum: “Little Coram-street, at the side of the [Russell] institution, has greatly degenerated since the time when probably its shops were patronised by some of the inhabitants of the ‘squares’ (Frederick Miller, Saint Pancras – Past and Present, 1874). Its east side and the adjacent slums were not cleared by the Metropolitan Board of Works until 1884, and the whole area was bought from the Foundling estate by the Peabody Trustees, who built model housing, Peabody Buildings, on the site (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984).

The Peabody Trustees hold documents relating to their redevelopment of this site; an agreement between the Trustee and the Foundling Hospital of 1875 shows the area to be sold, encompassing the east side of Little Coram Street, Chapel Place, Marchmont Place, Russell Place and Coram Place, with the houses on Russell Place and Coram Place having already been cleared. (Conveyance and Assignment, 6 October 1875, Peabody Trustees)

In 1897 the remaining leases fell in and the following year the street was sold to the LCC, along with Little Guilford Street (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984). The LCC proceeded to build more model housing on the west side of the street in 1898. It was incorporated into the new Herbrand Street in 1901.”

“ “The 1870s finally saw the beginning of a vigorous program of demolition and redevelopment, but the initiative came from outside the Foundling Hospital. In the summer of 1872 the St Giles’s Board of Works obtained a legal order for the demolition of the whole of Russell Place and Coram Place. Later that summer the Peabody Trustees applied to purchase the freehold of Coram, Russell, Marchmont, and Chapel places, together with a portion of Little Coram Street. After some hesitation the governors agreed to sell the property for £5400” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984).

Despite statistics showing the alarmingly high death rates in the slum areas, it was to be more than a decade later that such drastic measures were finally approved on the Foundling estate, in comparison to the building of model lodging houses on the Bedford estate as early as 1849–1850 (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984)”

From: Housing the Workers – Early London County Council Housing 1889-1914, by Martin Stilwell (August 2015):

“…The Herbrand St site formed part of a larger MBW clearance scheme (called the Little Coram Street scheme) on land owned by the Duke of Bedford and from which the MBW was able to sell much of the cleared site to the Peabody Trust in 1884. The Duke, to his credit, re-housed those displaced on other parts of his estate at his cost. The resulting Peabody Buildings are opposite the Council’s buildings across Herbrand Street…”

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