The Bloomsbury Group

The first pupils of the School all hailed from London (although later pupils came from all over the globe) but following their individual stories is hampered by an inconsistency in spelling of surnames and place names, seemingly entirely dependent on the clerk who wrote them at the time. For example, Sophia Kewney is written thus and also as Kenney and it is not certain which, if either, is correct. Catherine Charlotte Baes was actually baptised under the name Boyce – or possibly Bayce – and both might be intended to be Base or Bays anyway!

Mary Ann Wolveridge’s address was given as Melliore St, Maize, Southwark which doesn’t take much research to discover is Melior St, Maze. So trying to locate their addresses as given when they were admitted to the School in 1789 does have a degree of jeopardy attached.

This series of posts attempts to trace the addresses and has been divided into Bloomsbury, City, East End, Marylebone, Soho and Southwark based solely on what is written in the register at the time. Some of the addresses have disappeared since the eighteenth century and most have changed beyond recognition even if the original streets are still there. The School began in premises in Somers Town but the girls hailed from central, east, west and south London so arguably represent a microcosm of London life.

We will begin with Bloomsbury for no other reason than two of the first pupils lived in the same street. It would be most intriguing to know if they knew each other before they came to the School but it is unlikely that this will ever be discovered. Elizabeth Lowe and Sarah Jane Sitgraves both lived in King Street, Bloomsbury. (Sarah Jane is a case in point for clerical errors as her surname has been written variously as Sitgrave, Sitgraves and Sitgrace. As Sitgraves appears with greater frequency that is the version that will be used.) The Sitgraves’ residence is given as Upper King St if we are splitting hairs, but in any case King St isn’t King St any more so the distinction is academic.

‘King Street, which was presumably named in honour of Charles II, first appears in the ratebooks of the parish of St. Martin in 1673: it had previously been known as Charles Street like the street on the other side of the square’. In 1720 John Strype described King Street as ‘a good handsome Street’. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp295-307

However, today it is known as Southampton Row although the jury is out about whether this is the whole of King St (as was) or just a part of it.

‘No street in London changes its name as often in as short a space as the one which starts at the BBC’s overseas broadcasting centre Bush House, just around the corner from the Strand. The street begins … as the characterless, traffic-despoiled Kingsway. A couple of hundred metres later, at the perma-jammed crossroads with Holborn, it is reborn as Southampton Row.’ https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/jul/12/july7.features11

On Rocque’s map of 1746, it is labelled as King St, although he also calls the whole street as far as Bloomsbury Place ‘King Street’ and does not distinguish between King St and Upper King St. It lay on the western edge of the Bedford estate whilst the first site of the School was described as ‘north of the Duke of Bedford’s’.

‘according to Cary’s map of 1795, the continuation of the road was King Street and on some maps, Upper King Street’ https://www.bedfordestates.com/bloomsbury/history/

The streets were named after the Earls of Southampton whose land this was until 1667 when Lady Rachel Vaughan, née Wriothesley, daughter of the Earl of Southampton, married William, son of the 5th Earl of Bedford and the Bloomsbury area became part of the Bedford estate.

Image of Lady Rachel from https://www.bedfordestates.com/bloomsbury/history/

By 1897, the whole street became known as Southampton Row and it is shown thus on a map of this time.

 

An earlier map (Horwood’s 1799) shows on the east side of the street, consecutive numbers from 1 to 33, running from south to north with no numbering on the west side. The numbers are irrelevant for Elizabeth Lowe’s address, which is given only as Taylor, King St. Her father is described in the School register as ‘Formerly a respectable Master Taylor now in great distress with a sick Wife and two Children’ so we have to assume that he is the tailor (as we would spell it today) of the address or, at the very least, worked for the tailor. Sarah Jane’s place of residence was Bedford Head, Upper King St. and we know her father was a victualler so it comes as no surprise to find that there was a PH called Bedford Head. The Bloomsbury Project lists 19 pubs in the area from the 1832 Robson’s directory of which the Bedford Head is one. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-project/streets/tottenham_court_road.htm So plenty of watering holes for the working man to quench his thirst.

Pubshistory.com very kindly identifies the number as 5 Upper King St https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/StGeorgeBloomsbury/BedfordHead.shtml and gives the publican in 1805 as Richard Gascoigne (Holdens Directory). This is the earliest reference on this website to which we could now add Edmund Sitgraves in 1789. Edmund died possibly in 1802. There is a burial record but not really in the right place and, additionally, he was described as deceased in 1794 when his son Thomas was apprenticed.

The wonderful website https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/ shows Southampton Row both today (heavily encroached upon by Kingsway in 1905) and how it was in 1895.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17&lat=51.5211&lon=-0.1235&layers=171&right=BingHyb

Whilst there have clearly been many changes, the bones of the eighteenth century places can still be seen. The original 112 acres acquired by the Earl of Southampton after the Dissolution of the Monasteries has been reduced to twenty acres (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914; Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986), but it bears names that forever identify it with those origins.

 

 

 

 

It is probably safe to say that it is unlikely Elizabeth Lowe or Sarah Jane Sitgraves ever considered the name origins of where they lived before they became pupils at the School. After their time at the School, Sarah Jane returned home to her mother and may possibly (uncertain) have married John Robyns in 1820 and died in 1825. Elizabeth Lowe, on the other hand, who left in 1797, was apprenticed. She was originally due to be apprenticed to ‘Captain Thomas Meriton, of St Catherine Cloysters, nr the Tower’ but the School records that she was ‘Apprenticed, by her own wish, to Colonel Jackson, Titchfield St’. Why it was Elizabeth’s wish to be apprenticed to one and not the other (both probably in a domestic servant capacity) is unknown and neither is it recorded the reaction of the School authorities to her declared wishes. One can, however, imagine the row that ensued!

It is possible that Captain Thomas Meriton is not actually a person. In The eighteenth century: or, illustrations of the manners and customs of our grand-fathers is the following paragraph taken from ‘the Craftsman of May the 12th, 1787’:

“Thursday night, between the hours of twelve and one o’clock, the Calais Packet, Captain Thomas Meriton, lying in the Thames, at Lady Parsons’ Stairs, was boarded by eight men, armed with pistols and cutlasses, who … robbed the vessel of goods to the amount of one hundred pounds” https://archive.org/stream/eighteenthcentur00andruoft/eighteenthcentur00andruoft_djvu.txt

The way this is written would suggest that the Captain Thomas Meriton is a ship that undertook a regular return trip between London and Calais. On the other hand, there was definitely a sea captain called Thomas Meriton as identified in The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer although, as this reference was to his death in April 1766, this cannot be the same one.

St Catherine’s Cloisters is described in Lockie’s Topography of London (pub. 1810) as being in Tower Hill on the north side of the church. Now written as St Katherine, it is the site of St Katherine’s Dock, the original hospital founded in 1147 by Matilda subsumed. There is still a Cloister Walk however where a certain coffee house can be found.

Titchfield St (or Great Titchfield St) on the other hand is not at all far from Elizabeth’s family home in King St.

So perhaps her motivation was the very understandable one of being near home or family. There is a possibility that she married William Phillips in 1803 but, like the possible marriage for Sarah Jane, there is not enough certainty to state this is definitely the case. For both girls, until other information comes to light, their lives float off into the middle distance. From Bloomsbury to beyond!