Coptic Street, WC1A

Place Name

This was originally Duke Street, after the dukes of Bedford who owned land in the area. It was so-named in 1894, the year after an important collection of Coptic manuscripts (the literature of Christian Egypt) were brought to the British Museum. It was not unusual for street names to be changed to reflect big events, and in this case it also put an end to confusion with the many other Duke Streets around the capital. Public interest in ancient Egypt was stimulated after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded and his scholars starting recording information about the country in 1798. In 1802 a number of antiquities, conceded to Britain by France as part of an 1801 peace treaty, were presented to the museum in the name of George III. The museum’s antiquities collection continued to grow through the 19thCentury, from around 10,000 objects in 1866 to 57,000 upon the retirement of EA Wallis Budge, its Keeper between 1894 – 1924. The street itself was laid out during the building boom that followed the Great Fire of 1666. The UCL Bloomsbury Project, citing the Camden History Society, says that: “Its site was still rural in the late seventeenth century; a liquorice field growing medicinal plants stretched from here to modern Bury Place.” While it was a respectable area, it was next to a brewery, once on modern West Central Street. The UCL Project continues: “The street was bisected by New Oxford Street in the 1840s… Its southernmost end, the part south of New Oxford Street, was amalgamated with Brewer Street to form the new L-shaped street called West Central Street in the twentieth century.”









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