The earls of Southampton owned Bloomsbury throughout much of the 16th and 17th centuries. Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton (December 21, 1505 – July 30, 1550), was a Tudor lawyer who became Lord High Chancellor under Henry VIII. He was one of the richest men in the country and at the dissolution of the monasteries was granted two important estates: a mansion in High Holborn, and the then country manor of Bloomsbury, the latter having previously been in the hands of the Carthusian monks. The manor passed down his family to the 3rd Earl, Henry Wriothesley, who was Shakespeare’s patron, and his son the 4th Earl, Thomas Wriothesley, the last of the line, who was coined “London’s first town-planner”. It was the 4th Earl who was responsible for building Bloomsbury Square, to which this street gives access, in the 1660s. He also built himself a new town house, north of the Square, which he called Southampton House. When it was first laid out, the street was called Southampton Street. John Strype describes it and the Square in 1720 as “very spacious, with good Houses, well inhabited and resorted unto by Gentry for Lodgings, which said Street comes out of High Holborn, and fronts the Square called Southampton Square, being a large open Place railed in, with Rows of large Buildings on all sides; that on the East side called Seymour Row; that on the South, Vernon Street, that on the West, Allington Row, and that on the North is fronted by Southampton House, which is a large Buildings, with a spacious Court before it for the Reception of Coaches, and a curious Garden behind which lieth open to the Fields enjoying a wholesome and pleasant Air.” The house was demolished in 1800.
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