Pied Bull Yard, WC1A

Place Name

Camden History Society says this is named after the Pied Bull coaching inn in Museum Street. However there was a Pied Bull Tavern on Little Russell Street, in an area known previously as Stable Yard, but from around 1880 renamed Galen Place. The Times reported an inquest held there in 1825. Perhaps established to service the traders of Bloomsbury Market which opened in 1730, the earliest reference to the Pied Bull appears on a map dated 1827. The London Review Bookshop blog makes another suggestion: “Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide of 1817 mentions a wine merchant, two printing and engraving workshops, a solicitor, a grocer and an ironmonger operating in and around Bury Place; perhaps the Pied Bull was the emblem of one of these establishments.” Certainly by the 1840s Pied Bull Yard was a typical mews, and its occupants listed in the 1841 census included a coach-maker, carman, upholsterer, dressmaker, livery keeper, and coachmen. During World War II, around Christmas 1940, a high-explosive bomb fell on and destroyed the yard, and it had to be entirely rebuilt. In the 1970s, Dr George Wagner spearheaded a residents’ revolt against government plans to demolish many local streets and old yards as part of a proposal to make way for the British Library opposite the British Museum. Janet Hall, the curator of a 2014 exhibition about the events said: “This area of Bloomsbury came so close to being completely destroyed; it was only the combined efforts of a community of local people, artists, friends, neighbours and councillors that saved it from almost certain destruction. Feasibility studies had been carried out, and full plans were drawn up. Had the Bloomsbury plans gone ahead, historic buildings including residences belonging to the Peabody Trust – one of the earliest housing associations in the capital – would have been lost for good.” In response to the demolition plans, the Bloomsbury Association was formed, and its first chair George Wagner wrote numerous letters to various newspapers, government, councillors, the British Museum, and national libraries on its behalf. Local residents organised concerts, created a local mascot ‘BuBu’, hung out their Bloomsbury Bloomers, and instigated the annual Bloomsbury Fair which continues to this day. Eventually, after a long and vocal campaign, the government bowed to pressure and chose to site the Library on derelict land in St Pancras instead, its current home. “There are too few occasions within urbanism that a community’s actions have led to a better architectural/urban solution,” said Hall. “The situation in Bloomsbury is particularly unusual because the solution found was not the alteration of a proposed project but its total relocation and total conservation of an area. The public influenced to a lesser extent the architectural scale, but more significantly affected decision making on a wider-urban scale from their local level – an ambition laid out by the 2011 Localism Act.” It became an upmarket courtyard shopping and dining area in the late 20thCentury.

 

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