This appears on an 1799 map as Green Street, it was changed to Emerald – a shade of green – in 1885 to avoid confusion with numerous other streets of that name. The UCL Bloomsbury Project suggests it may have been named after Edmond Greene, headmaster of Bedford School in the 16thCentury, or after the former bowling green and cockpit area where Cockpit Yard now stands. In 1562 William Harpur, a man of humble beginnings from Bedford who moved to London and amassed a large fortune as a merchant tailor, bought about 13 acres of land for £180 13s at Holborn. It would prove to be a very savvy investment given the rapid rate of London’s expansion. In 1566 the land was sold to the Bedford corporation which supports four independent schools in Harpur’s home county, including the Bedford School. The endowment enabled the school to take up a second site, and provide a house for its headmaster, Edmond Greene. Harpur became Lord Mayor of London in 1561 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1562. In the 1680s the land in Holborn started being built upon. Its value soared and the rents were to assure the future of the school. Prior to 1799, the street appears on John Rocque’s 1746 map as Grange Street leading to French’s Dairy in Chaple Court (now Rugby Street). Richbell Place, built by John Richbell in about 1710, and an unnamed entrance, now Emerald Court, gave access to Red Lyon Street (now Lambs’ Conduit Street). Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names suggests the street was first built in around 1700.
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