Boswell Street, WC1N

Place Name

Edward Boswell was a 17thCentury bricklayer from St Giles-in-the-Fields and a churchwarden of that neighbouring parish. Both Boswell Street and Boswell Court were part of his successful speculative building projects at the end of the 18thCentury, a period of rapid residential development in the district of Bloomsbury, large swathes of the area remaining fields up until that time. Boswell had a contract for work on St George’s, Bloomsbury, which had been commissioned by an Act of Parliament in 1711 with the purpose of furnishing the capital and its rapidly growing conurbation with 50 new churches. Its Commissioners realised that, due to the rapid development of Bloomsbury during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the area (until then part of the parish of St-Giles-in-the-Fields) needed to be split off and given a parish church of its own. They appointed Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil and former assistant of Sir Christopher Wren, to design and build St George’s which was the sixth and last of his London churches. It’s a story picked up by Peter Ackroyd in his work of fiction, Hawksmoor. Upon Boswell’s death in about 1728, his estate passed to Mr John Collin, a carpenter from near the new church in Bloomsbury. David Hayes in East of Bloomsbury says the street was built in the 1690s around the site of Devonshire House. Hence when it was first laid out it was called Devonshire Street, and appears on John Rocque’s 1746 map by that name. The house was home to Major Benton Fletcher, who housed his collection of early keyboards there. He gave the house to the National Trust in 1937, fortunately moving the collection to the Cotswolds before the house was destroyed by a bomb in World War Two. In 1927 the street was renamed after Boswell Court which had existed and been so-named since at least 1746.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *