Percy Circus, WC1X

Place Name

Robert Percy Smith, known as “Bobus” Smith (May 7, 1770 – March 10, 1845), was a lawyer, Member of Parliament, and Judge Advocate-General of Bengal, India, but this street is named for his role as Governor of the New River Company from 1827 until his death. After Eton (where he was the loser in a fight with the future Duke of Wellington) and Cambridge, he was called to the bar of Lincoln’s Inn. He made his fortune after seven years as Judge Advocate General of Bengal, during which time he was hostile to Christian missions proselytising to local people arguing Indians should be taught in their own cultural tradition; but he was ignored. In 1812 Smith became MP for Grantham, and six years later he contested Lincoln unsuccessfully, finally winning it in 1820 and holding onto it for six years until his retirement. Despite being a man of great originality and a profound thinker, his maiden speech was a disaster, and he was widely criticised for failing to prepare. But it is as Smith’s role as Governor of the New River Company, which developed part of Finsbury as the head of the New River, for which he is remembered in this street name (Great Percy Street in Clerkenwell is also named after him). Building started in 1841 and competed in 1853. Like Myddelton Square, Percy Circus was laid out by William Chadwell Mylne. It is unusual for its polygonal shape and because it is built on a steep slope. There is a central circular terrace with benches, accessible via steps and a ramp, surrounded by mature trees. The railings are original.

 

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