Tavistock House

Pages 99-100

Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1949.

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The position of this house is clearly shown on Davies' Map of St. Marylebone (1834). It was built by James Burton, and while he was developing this area he appears to have occupied the house himself. Burton obtained leases, from the Duke of Bedford, of two plots of ground adjoining the gardens of the houses that formed the east side of Tavistock Square. The lease of the southern plot was dated 8th May, 1800, and was for 98 years from Christmas, 1795. That of the northern plot was dated 10th February, 1801. Two roads were projected in continuation of the north and south sides of the square, Tavistock Place North and Tavistock Place South, to give frontages to the property, but only the southern street was made. On the northern plot and part of the southern Burton built his house within an ample garden. In 1805 Burton sold the lease to Thomas Murdock, who resided here for some time. He sold the lease in 1811 to Benjamin Oakley, who transferred it to James Perry in 1812. (fn. 94)

Figure 26:

Tavistock House

The building faced north and south and was approached by a drive that was a continuation of the northern walk of the square, just below Upper Woburn Place. Mr. E. J. Barron, writing at the time of its demolition (fn. 95) (1901), says that Tavistock House was then one of a block of three houses into which the original house had been divided, its neighbours on the east being Bedford House and Russell House. There was an iron fence and gates (to the drive) leading into a front court with carriage sweep and centre bed before the three houses. Before it was divided it was the town house of James Perry (1756–1821), the journalist, who, as noted above, bought the lease in 1812. He was the first editor of the European Magazine, and edited the Morning Chronicle with conspicuous success. Later Charles Williams, stockbroker, a friend of Perry's, lived in the house and published a volume of private letters and portraits of his family. (fn. 95) Perry had bequeathed the house to his nephew Thomas Bentley and it was acquired eventually by George Henry Robins of Covent Garden, auctioneer, who probably divided it into three.

Charles Dickens moved into Tavistock House (the western section after its division) in 1851. Here he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit, and it was here he got up the amateur theatricals which are described in Forster's Life. In 1856 Dickens bought Gadshill Place but he did not part with Tavistock House until 1860, after his daughter Kate's marriage. He sold the lease to William Spencer Johnson and William Bush. (fn. 94)

Mrs. Georgina Weldon lived here later and had classes for the cultivation of the voice. Mr. Cansick says that Charles Gounod lodged with the Weldons and that the Gounod Choir met here weekly.

A woodcut of the house appears in Forster's Life of Charles Dickens. Photographs of the building are in the Collections of the St. Pancras Public Library and of the Council. For further particulars see The Dickensian, XXII, No. 1 (Jan., 1926), p. 48, and XXVIII, No. 221 (Winter, 1931/32), p. 39 (photograph).


  • 94. M.L.R. 1800–1860.
  • 95. Home Counties Magazine, III, p. 242 and IV, p. 82.