Bernard Street, WC1N

Place Name

Built on the former Foundling Hospital estate and named in honour of one of its governors, English social reformer, Sir Thomas Bernard (April 27, 1750 – July 1, 1818), 3rd Baronet. Born in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, the son of Sir Francis Bernard, 1st Baronet, a colonial administrator who as governor of Massachusetts Bay played a key part in directing the British policy which led to the revolt of the American colonies. After being educated at Harvard College, Bernard accompanied his father back to England, where he was called to the bar and practised as a conveyancer. Having married a rich woman he devoted much of his time to social work. As well as holding various posts at the Foundling (Treasurer and then Vice-President), he was also a founding Director of the British Institution in 1805; active in promoting vaccinations; and, a Director and proponent of the Regent’s Canal (social reformers favouring canals in this period became they greatly reduced the price of coal for the poor). In addition to providing care for some of London’s most vulnerable citizens, the Foundling Hospital, almost by accident, became a major landowner in the fast-developing district of Bloomsbury in the 19thCentury. When it was first established, in 1739, its governors had bought much more land than was needed, and when in the late 18thCentury the hospital was in financial straits, the residential development of this extra land seemed its only viable way out. Building started in 1790s and was largely carried out by James Burton, who built this street between 1799 – 1820, as David Hayes in East of Bloomsbury says “opening into Russell Square by arrangement with the Duke of Bedford”. Bernard is buried beneath the chapel of the Foundling Hospital which was demolished in 1928.


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