The Bedford Estate: From 1802 to 1893

Pages 40-48

Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.

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From 1802 to 1893

The fifth Duke was succeeded by his brother, John, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1806–7. His eldest son, Francis, the seventh Duke, held the title from 1839 until 1861, when he was succeeded by his only son, William, who in his later years became a complete recluse, 'never leaving his London house except to drive in a carriage with wooden shutters.' The eighth Duke died unmarried in 1872 and was succeeded by his cousin, Francis Charles Hastings, the ninth Duke, who was very active in the improvement of his estates and was President of the Royal Agricultural Society. He shot himself in 1891 'while temporarily insane, during pneumonia'. His eldest son and heir, George William Francis Sackville, the tenth Duke, died two years later without issue. (fn. 7)

The history of the Bedford estates in the nineteenth century is recorded in detail in letters be tween the Dukes and their officers, and by a series of annual reports, beginning in 1815, which the latter regularly submitted to their employers. These reports show that the Dukes' income was enormous and that between 1816 and 1892 it almost trebled. In 1816 and 1817 the sixth Duke's gross annual income from all his lands was about £85,000 of which some £26,000 arose from the Covent Garden estate (including the market). (fn. 8) By 1892 the combined rental of Covent Garden estate and the net receipts from the market had increased to £59,853, (fn. 9) and the total gross income from all estates was about £247,000. (fn. 10) This great wealth was matched by correspondingly lavish spending—in 1816 household expenses alone amounted to £21,500—and in his estimate of expenditure for that year the chief agent was forecasting a deficit of £10,000. But the situation was hardly desperate, for the budget could be balanced if the Duke would only agree to abandon the purchase of more lands around Tavistock. (fn. 8) By 1892, however, the tenth Duke was having to pay nearly £175,000 in duties on his succession to the title in the previous year, (fn. 11) and the future of great landed estates was beginning to appear uncertain.

Throughout the nineteenth century many calls were made upon the Dukes of Bedford for charitable donations, and contributions were often made to national, metropolitan and local organizations. For instance, both the seventh and eighth Dukes each gave £1,000 per annum for ten years to the Bishop of London's Church Building Fund, (fn. 12) and in 1858 the seventh Duke's donations to schools (including new buildings) amounted to over £17,000. (fn. 13) In the 1830's the sixth Duke had agreed to abate the ground rents of both Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres by £500 per annum each, and although his motives in so doing were not wholly philanthropic neither he nor his successors ever insisted upon their right to full payment; at Covent Garden this concession was continued until the destruction of the theatre by fire in 1856, and at Drury Lane, despite the considerable prosperity which the theatre enjoyed in the latter part of the century, until the expiry of the ground lease in 1894. Numerous small donations were also made to half-a-dozen London hospitals, (fn. 14) and within the neighbourhood of Covent Garden to the schools there, (fn. 15) to the repair of St. Martin's in the Fields, (fn. 16) to the St. Mary le Strand mission (fn. 17) and other similar bodies; and on the Dukes' other estates, both elsewhere in London and in the country, there were corresponding local claims which were met in the same way.

The Dukes of Bedford usually avoided making annually recurring contributions to any charity, (fn. 18) but charitable institutions which were also tenants on the Covent Garden estate presented a problem. 'In general, they have expected that their Leases would be renewed at a low or nominal rent', explained Christopher Haedy, the seventh Duke's steward, in 1840. 'Had this been done, your Grace would become a Contributor to them to a much larger extent than would be reasonable, and also without appearing to be so. … I therefore long since laid it down as a Rule that these cases were not to be treated differently from any other lettings … and that, if they wished to apply to your Grace to assist them,… [and] if your Grace thought the application a proper one … you would give them either a subscription or a Donation.' (fn. 19)

Once a year the Dukes of Bedford provided a venison feast for their tenants in Covent Garden, and presented them with two bucks from the herd at Woburn Abbey. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries references occur to this annual event, which had perhaps been inaugurated by the fourth Earl after the building of the church and the development of the parish. (fn. 20) It usually took place in the late summer or autumn and was held, at least from the end of the eighteenth century, at one of the hotels or taverns in the Piazza. In 1871 the churchwardens, who made the arrangements for the feast, decided not to hold it in that year because 'it had ceased to be a medium of a re-union of the Tenants … and the Parishioners and of late years had been attended principally by strangers', but the custom was nevertheless renewed in the following year. In 1874 the feast was threatened by a disaster to the venison itself for, in spite of 'every possible care and attention' whilst hanging at the Bedford Head, it had 'gone quite green'. The last known feast took place two years later in 1876, but the custom may have persisted until the sale of the estate in the twentieth century. (fn. 21)

In the management of their great wealth the Dukes of Bedford were advised firstly by a peripatetic chief agent, and secondly, by the local stewards of each estate. (fn. 1) The power which these officers exerted in their different spheres was extensive, although it no doubt varied according to the strength of their own personalities and the degree of active interest which each particular Duke took in the administration of his properties. The annual reports often contain an unexpected amount of plain speaking. The sixth Duke, for instance, who would never economize, (fn. 7) was reminded in 1820, when he was over fifty years old, 'that his real dignity and consequence does not depend on his expenditure—but on his being able to maintain his station and provide for his family without lessening the extent or value of the Estates'. (fn. 22) A few years later the agent was reporting almost as if he were the same somewhat prodigal Duke's guardian rather than his employee —'I shall be unable to allot any thing to Extra works if any shall be resolved on, to provide any thing for a general Election should one occur—to provide for the purchase of a Commission or an Outfit or for any other Contingency tho' it can hardly be expected that some will not occur.' (fn. 23) In such an evidently uninhibited relationship as this it is often impossible to detect whether matters of policy were decided by the Dukes or by their officers, and this is particularly so where the officers themselves employed the tones of a great landed magnate. 'The Duke would not be in any way influenced by the ignorant clap trap of a Local Vestry', runs the London steward's report of 1879, 'or permit dictation by outsiders having no real knowledge of or interest in the Estate.' (fn. 24)

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Covent Garden had not changed greatly since its original development in the 1630's. The market had taken over the centre of the Piazza, Bedford Ground had been laid out for building, most of the seventeenth-century houses had been refronted or rebuilt, and many of those which had once been private residences had had their ground floors converted into shops. But in general the buildings were still domestic in aspect, the street plan had hardly altered, and access to the estate was still mainly through narrow alleys. By the end of the century, however, the area had to a large extent assumed its modern character, which was chiefly formed by the enormous expansion of the market.

In the early nineteenth century the market (which the Dukes of Bedford were then leasing to the highest bidder) contributed only about one tenth of the total revenue of the Covent Garden estate. But by 1892 the net receipts from the market (which had been in the Dukes' own management since 1828) were virtually equal to the rental of the estate (fn. 9) and the market had become, in the words of one of the stewards, 'the chief among a combination of circumstances which makes and will for many years make Covent Garden by far the most valuable of the Duke's London Estates'. (fn. 25) The requirements of the market therefore became the first consideration, particularly in the last quarter of the century when the total income from the Dukes' country estates was suffering severely from the effects of the great agricultural depression, and this paramountcy had important consequences upon the topographical and social character of the surrounding locality. By 1905 almost all of the ground on the east and south sides of the Piazza had been incorporated into the market, the tentacles of which already stretched into the surrounding streets as well.

The principal event in the first half of the nineteenth century was therefore the rebuilding of the market in 1828–30 (see page 136). About half of the money needed by the sixth Duke for this improvement was provided by the sale of a number of properties required for the metropolitan street improvements which an Act of Parliament of 1826 had authorized the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to make. (fn. 26) Between 1828 and 1831 the Duke sold eleven houses in the Strand, two others in Southampton Place, two in Southampton Street and certain fee-farm rents of properties in the Strand and in the neighbourhood of St. Martin's Lane and Chandos Street to the Commissioners for £32,793. (fn. 27) Adelaide Street, Agar Street and King William IV Street were subsequently built at the west end of the Strand and the frontage of the Strand adjoining Southampton Street was set back to its present line. The rebuilding of the market was completed in May 1830 and cost the Duke some £61,000.

The opening of these new streets in the southwest corner of the estate and the widening of the Strand was the first of five major street improvements which were carried out in the vicinity of Covent Garden between 1828 and 1865. The second of these, the formation of Wellington Street, was occasioned by the destruction by fire of the English Opera House (later known as the Lyceum Theatre) in February 1830. Ever since the completion of Waterloo Bridge and its northern approach road (now Lancaster Place) in 1817 there had been a need to improve north–south communication by a new street leading northward out of the Strand, but the theatre stood in the way and nothing had been done. After the fire the Commissioners of Woods and Forests obtained an Act to form this street, (fn. 28) and at the request of the Duke of Bedford the widening of the north end of Bow Street between Hart Street and Long Acre was also included in the improvement. (fn. 29) The theatre was rebuilt on the west side of the new street, which was completed in 1835. The Duke of Bedford only had to sell three houses for the formation of Wellington Street, most of which occupied ground hitherto in the possession of the Marquis of Exeter, but access to the eastern part of the Covent Garden estate was greatly improved, and Bow Street became for the first time an important artery of north-south communication.

Garrick Street, the next new street to be built near Covent Garden, greatly improved access from the west by connecting the junction of St. Martin's Lane and Long Acre with the western end of King Street. The seventh Duke of Bedford and his advisers played an active if selfinterested part in promoting the scheme, considering that it would be 'highly advantageous' to local tradesmen and to the market and that it would also provide a 'more convenient' approach to the two theatres. (fn. 30) The formation of Garrick Street was first referred to in 1838 as a recommended eastward extension of the Cranbourn Street improvement, then under consideration by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, (fn. 31) but in 1844 the Commissioners had refused to undertake it because they considered it to be a local rather than a metropolitan improvement. The Duke's advisers thought that in the interests of the estate he should nevertheless carry out the scheme at his own expense, (fn. 32) and suggested that, as he was not willing to make 'any great personal sacrifice', the 'worse parts' of Covent Garden should be sold to meet the cost. (fn. 33) In 1845 the Duke offered to pay the Commissioners £10,000 if they would undertake the scheme, his advisers being confident that this sum would be recovered when the Commissioners bought the properties belonging to the Duke which would be needed for the street, and that in the long run the resultant improved access would greatly enhance the value of the rest of the estate. (fn. 34) The Commissioners considered this offer to be 'a liberal one' but the vestry of St. Paul, although ardently advocating the building of the street, refused to make any contribution from the rates, and in 1847 the Duke therefore raised his offer to £13,000 in order to include the amount which the Commissioners had expected from the vestry. (fn. 35) Shortly afterwards the Commissioners reported to Parliament in favour of the scheme on these terms, but their own funds were insufficient to meet the remainder of the cost, and despite the Duke's willingness to lend them the balance, (fn. 36) nothing was done until after the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. In 1857, when the Duke had increased his offer to £15,000, the Act of Parliament for making the new Street, 'so long desired but nearly despaired of', was passed. (fn. 37) The improvement was carried out by the new Board, which in 1858 paid the Duke nearly £21,000 for property required in King Street and Long Acre and bound itself to repay him his gift of £15,000 if the street were not completed within five years. (fn. 38) The gross cost of the street, which was opened to the public in March 1861, was £123,212, but the net cost, after disposal of surplus land, was only £34,140, of which the Duke had contributed nearly half. (fn. 39) The buildings fronting the street were completed and the freeholds of many were sold in January 1868. (fn. 40)

The other two major mid nineteenth-century street improvements in Covent Garden were both executed at the sole expense of the Dukes of Bedford in the interest of improving access to the market and consequently enlarging their revenue from the estate. Between 1856 and 1861 the seventh Duke spent £6,051 on the extension of Burleigh Street from Exeter Street to Tavistock Street and the formation of a covered passage on the east side of Tavistock Court leading into the south-east corner of the Piazza. (fn. 41) At the opposite corner of the estate Hart Street, blocked at its west end ever since it was built during the original development of the 1630's, and now seriously congested by market carts and waggons, was extended westwards in the early 1860's to meet Garrick Street—an improvement originally envisaged by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, but abandoned on grounds of expense. (fn. 42) The eighth Duke spent nearly £6,500 on the purchase of the necessary properties from the Metropolitan Board of Works and other owners, and the extension was completed in 1865. (fn. 43)

These two projects virtually completed the series of nineteenth-century street improvements in Covent Garden. By 1867 the gross rental of the estate (exclusive of the market) had risen from about £23,000 in 1820 to about £28,000, and the steward considered that 'The present increased value of the Estate shows that making the five new Streets … cannot be regretted.' (fn. 44)

Another external influence which benefited the estate, and therefore improved its value, was the higher standard of sanitation which mid nineteenth-century legislation was gradually imposing upon urban landlords. Within a short while of the publication of Edwin Chadwick's famous Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population in 1842 and the First Report of the Royal Commission into the Sanitary State of Large Towns and Populous Districts in 1844, the Duke was asking how many houses in Covent Garden were let to 'the poorer classes of mechanics'. There were forty-six such houses, he was told, all on the east side of the estate in the alleys off Drury Lane, of which eighteen were inhabited by 'a very poor and low class of persons'. (fn. 45) The jolt to the public conscience provided by the publication of the two reports of 1842 and 1844 produced no action in Covent Garden, however, until after the cholera epidemic of 1848–9 and the establishment of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers. In 1854 the Duke was incurring 'very considerable' expenditure in filling in cesspools, converting privies into water closets and connecting them (as the law now required) with the new sewers being built by the Commission. Much of this work was needed in the purlieus of Drury Lane, in Broad Court, the two Cross Courts, Duke's Court, Marquis Court, Russell Court and White Hart Street, where the steward was pleased to note that the Duke's sanitary engineering had 'very much raised the character of those parts of your Grace's Estate on which that outlay has taken place'. (fn. 46)

The first attempts to improve housing followed soon after the introduction of better sanitation. In 1857–8 the Strand Buildings Society erected model dwellings for the working classes in Eagle Court under a lease from the Duke to Viscount Ingestre and the Rev. Augustin Gaspard Edouart, the minister of St. Michael's, Burleigh Street. Thirty-eight sets of two-room 'flats' provided accommodation for 179 inhabitants at a cost of £5,000—a cause which the seventh Duke supported by the purchase of ten of the company's shares of £10 each, and by the grant of the lease at a rent of only £30 per annum. (fn. 47) More often, however, housing improvements were achieved by the renovation of the existing buildings, particularly in the courts off Drury Lane. In 1860, for instance, a number of 'very old and badly arranged' houses in Russell, Cross and Duke's Courts were rendered habitable at a cost to the Duke of £1,856, (fn. 48) and were then leased to 'very desirable tenants', sub-letting, so often a cause of overcrowding, being prohibited without consent. (fn. 49) Elsewhere on the estate higher standards of building were required, and new precautions against damp and fire were introduced 'on the most improved system of construction'. Some of the buildings erected around 1860 were provided (in Bedford Street, for instance) with three water closets and a washing room, all connected to the main sewers. (fn. 50)

But improvements often had to wait until the expiry of the existing ground lease. This was so in the case of the Company of Proprietors of Drury Lane Theatre, whose lease, not due to expire until 1894, included what the Duke's agent described in 1860 as 'some very objectionable premises' on the south side of the theatre. (fn. 51) In 1884 a house-to-house investigation of the courts around Drury Lane was made by the Duke's staff. Their enquiries showed that the worst conditions prevailed in the properties on lease to the theatre and to the Scotch Church (in Crown Court and Little Russell Street), where the lessees displayed 'complete indifference' to the state of their property, and tolerable conditions could only be maintained by the 'active interference' of the Bedford Office. Ninety-nine tenement houses were surveyed. In thirty-six of them the sub-lessees were resident and sub-let rooms; in the rest the sub-lessees sub-let the whole building and lived elsewhere. A few of the occupants were described by the Duke's steward as 'home workers', plying their trades in groundfloor shops or in their own rooms. The majority were 'outworkers', employed locally. 'The best of these are … in Crown Court and Broad Court and include Market Salesmen, Musicians at the Theatres, Sergeants and Constables in Police, Printers etc… . At the other end of the scale we find as in Russell and Marquis Court Market Porters, Shoe menders, Jobbing tradesmen and Labourers, with Laundresses and Charwomen. There are few if any of the absolutely destitute class, tho' the pinch of poverty must be felt by many directly there is sickness or want of employment… there are no Thieves nor Prostitutes resident in these Courts tho' I should not be surprized to find both classes soon in … Marquis Court unless sharp measures are adopted with the Lessees.' (fn. 52) These courts continued to exercise the Duke's staff until the expiry of the theatre's ground lease in 1894 and the London County Council's plans for the formation of Aldwych and Kingsway allowed the rebuilding of this notoriously insalubrious area to begin shortly afterwards.

It was only in 'rare and exceptional cases' that the Dukes made any 'permanent' outlay on rebuilding. In general the 'maxims' governing the management of the estate remained unchanged— all repairs had to be done by the lessees and building leases were granted in accordance with the precept 'never let to Middlemen until it is quite clear that Occupying Lessees are not forthcoming'. (fn. 53) During the second half of the century, however, with the erection of large and expensive commercial premises being increasingly encouraged, adherence to this last maxim became more difficult and many building leases were granted, of necessity, to the 'Middleman Capitalist'. (fn. 54) As was customary on the Bedford estates, the speculators who provided the capital for rebuilding entered into pre-lease contracts which laid down the conditions to be observed; they were usually allowed the first year of their terms at a peppercorn rent and the common term (in the nineteenth century) was for eighty years. The ordinary renewing or repairing lease was usually granted for a twenty-one-year term.

It was primarily by means of the covenants contained in leases that the Dukes exerted what control they had over the estate. Some of these covenants had been in force throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They included the covenant to repair, as and when requested by the Dukes; another, to pay part of the costs of repairing shared features like party walls; in a third and a fourth covenant lessees undertook not to annoy the Dukes' other tenants and not to allow their premises to be occupied by persons practising certain trades or to be used for certain non-residential purposes.

Additional covenants were added, apparently as experience dictated. From 1806, for example, all the Dukes required their lessees to take out fire insurance policies—a stipulation soon to be justified when both Covent Garden and Drury Lane Theatres were burnt down shortly afterwards—but by the 1870's it had become necessary to insist that, in case of loss by fire, the lessees should spend the insurance money on rebuilding the premises destroyed. In the following decade a further stipulation required the lessees to make up the difference if the insurance money was insufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding.

Most of the additional covenants added in the nineteenth century fall into two categories; firstly those which curtailed the tenants' rights over the use of their premises, and, secondly, those which prevented them from altering or adding to the fabric of their buildings.

Tenants had some degree of freedom to dispose of their properties, but even at the beginning of the nineteenth century they were not allowed to assign their leases during the last seven years of their terms. This restriction was abandoned in the 1820's, (fn. 2) and, although the Dukes retained the right for their officers to inspect buildings twice a year or more often, thereafter tenants frequently neglected their repairs and sold their leases shortly before they expired to any who would buy them. Consequently, the sitting tenant at the date of expiry was often unable to afford the expense of reinstatement and the estate had to bear the costs. To combat this state of affairs a system of registration of assignments was instituted in the 1870's and regular surveys were undertaken from 1894.

However, tenants on the Bedford estate were not free, without first obtaining licence, to dispose of their leases or sub-let their premises to anyone who pursued noxious or noisy trades. (fn. 3) The list of these trades reached its greatest length in the 1860's. (fn. 4) Nevertheless, leases were often granted to persons engaged in the so-called noxious trades —witness the number of public-houses which, although deliberately reduced, survived throughout the nineteenth century. Similarly, the number of prohibited non-residential uses expanded in the nineteenth century (fn. 5) and whenever a lease was actually granted for one of these uses, as in the case of Hart Street Schools and Bow Street Police Station, special safeguarding clauses were inserted.

Another covenant, included in leases from the end of the eighteenth century, forbad tenants to convert their premises into shops for the sale of certain named articles (coals, potatoes and cooked provisions, etc.) without first obtaining permission. Moreover, from the 1840's lessees who were allowed to keep shops were not permitted to expose their goods for sale outside nor, from the 1850's, were tenants permitted to display advertising notices or signs, except with the consent of the Duke. By the 1870's shopkeepers also had to obtain permission before keeping any kind of produce which was sold in the market—a clause evidently inserted to protect the Dukes' tolls.

The restrictions on alterations to the buildings also grew in number. The experience of J. R. Bourne, the ninth Duke's steward, showed that 'lessees are very fond of exercising their own good taste in a way that does not in the least degree improve a property qua property'. (fn. 57) Thus nearly every decade some new covenant was added to the estate leases. In the 1830's tenants had to obtain the Duke's licence before erecting any additional building on their ground and before making any alteration or addition to the height, front, sides, roof, walls, timbers or elevation of their premises. In the 1840's the lessees were specifically required to paint the outside of their premises once every three years and the inside every seven years, and some forty years later it was even stipulated that the estate steward had to approve the colours chosen for exterior work. At about the same time lessees were also forbidden to make any alterations to the plan, elevation, materials or architectural decorations, without approval being first obtained.

The inclusion of these regulations in leases probably represented the tightening-up of existing practice rather than a newly devised policy, since, for most of the nineteenth century, the Dukes employed a full-time surveyor, with assistants, to whom plans and designs for alterations and new buildings were supposed to be submitted. The ninth Duke was particularly concerned with matters of architectural taste and insisted that Henry Clutton, whom he had commissioned to restore the church and to provide designs for rebuilding part of the north range of the Piazza, should also approve the designs for other new buildings around the market (see page 82). The steward remonstrated with the Duke about this practice for, in some instances, it resulted in 'an increased and (sometimes alleged) unnecessary expenditure', and he went on to suggest that 'in those cases in which the adoption of the Duke's Elevation is made a sine qua non the intending Lessees should have an opportunity of judging the Cost before signing Proposals'. (fn. 58)

In other matters, too, the ninth Duke appears to have been more autocratic than his forebears. The advent of the electric telegraph, for example, resulted in a new clause being introduced into leases forbidding posts and wires to be fixed on the premises belonging to the Duke without his permission. Similar restrictions were later imposed upon the fixing of apparatus for the telephone and electric lighting. (fn. 6) Moreover, although lessees had always been warned not to obstruct the light and air of their neighbours, a new form of lease was introduced in 1877 which reserved to the Duke the right to sanction any new building without reference to, or compensation for, any former rights of light and air; disputes on the subject were to be decided by the steward.

Thus, in the latter part of the nineteenth century the extent to which the ground landlord and his officers should attempt to control the tenants of the estate was becoming an increasingly difficult problem. In 1877 J. R. Bourne, the new steward of the Duke's Middlesex estates, stated that 'to be constantly interfering with Lessees, even within authorized powers, is impolitic', but in the case of property where the ground lease was due to expire shortly a 'more active interference is called for'. But in spite of the restrictions which they contained, the Bedford leases were, he claimed, not less favourably regarded in the open market than those of property elsewhere— 'Indeed the knowledge that the Duke exercises control and that matters are not left to mere chance enhances rather than depreciates the value of property.' He concluded that 'An enlightened Despotism seems to be the best form of government for the Estate having regard to the various conflicting interests'. (fn. 60)

Enlightened despotism, however, was going out of fashion in the London of the 1880's and 1890's, where a new mood of political radicalism was asserting itself under the auspices of the Fabian Society. Leasehold reform was in the air, and in 1886 a Select Committee of the House of Commons had been appointed to enquire, amongst other things, 'into the expediency of giving to Leaseholders Facilities for the Purchase of the Fee Simple of their Property'. J. R. Bourne gave much detailed evidence to the committee and claimed that 'the leasehold system has produced all the best parts of London'. In support of this contention he pointed out that in Maiden Lane the ground on the south side had been granted away in fee farm in the seventeenth century, while that on the north side had been retained in leasehold tenure, with the result that 'a blind man … could almost put his hand upon the houses that were let out on fee farm and those let out on lease, the difference is so great between them'. The break-up of the large freehold estates, he maintained, would be disastrous. 'Speaking broadly, and socially, for the general community, the existence of those large estates, well laid out, and well cared for, and well looked after, because they have got one united freeholder, the freeholder of the entire area, is, in a manner of speaking, the salvation of London.' (fn. 61)

The record of the Bedford estate itself was independently upheld by another witness, Robert Vigers, a surveyor with more than forty years' knowledge of London property, who stated that 'In all the experience I have had, and I have had a great many cases to deal with, I say the Bedford estate is a very fair dealing estate.' (fn. 62) The Select Committee continued to gather evidence until 1892, but no legislation ensued. In the meantime, however, great landowners were becoming the object of attacks of a kind which would have been inconceivable half a century earlier. In about 1888 The Sunday Times published a series of articles by Frank Banfield in which several of the aristocratic estate-owners of London were depicted as vile oppressors. In his onslaught upon the supposed social injustice of the private ownership of a food market he described the ninth Duke of Bedford as one who 'levies tolls … in a style which would do credit to an old Rhine baron of the Dark Ages, and keeps his ducal thumb well down on his serfs', while his verdict upon the management of the Duke's London estates as a whole was that it was 'void of all generosity and kindliness. In this inquiry for the first time I heard angrily used such epithets as "hard", "flinty", "tyrannical", and also the even less taking ones of "mean", "petty", "grasping". Greed and peddling interference go hand in hand to keep alive a feeling of bitter resentment.' (fn. 63) By the end of the nineteenth century the continued existence of the Bedford estate was, in fact, being publicly questioned for the first time.


  • 1. There were estate offices at Woburn, Thorney and Tavistock, but the head office was always in London. After the demolition of Bedford House in the Strand in 1705–6 it was moved to Bedford House in Bloomsbury. When that house was also demolished in 1800 the office occupied a house in Great Russell Street for some years until 1842, in which year it was removed to the present buildings in Montague Street.
  • 2. After the improvements which took place in the Russell Court area (see above), lessees in this neighbourhood were not permitted to dispose of their leases at all, without first obtaining consent. This was in order to prevent a return to the proliferation of undesirable sub-tenants and to the overcrowding which the improvements were designed to abolish.
  • 3. In 1857 the seventh Duke took steps to prevent a noisy business being carried on close to but not on the estate. He began legal proceedings against The News of the World because the company had established a printing house in Exeter Street, behind the Duke's houses in Tavistock and Southampton Streets. The matter was settled out of court by the company agreeing to alter its building and to erect a wall between the printing works and the backs of the Duke's houses.
  • 4. At about this time the trades and occupations which were not permitted to be carried on without the Duke's consent included those of: brewer, baker, sugar-baker, publican, vintner, victualler, butcher, tripeseller, poulterer, slaughterer, cow-keeper, fishmonger, cheesemonger, fruiterer, herb-seller, coffee-house or coffee-shop keeper, cook-shop keeper, distiller, dyer, chimney-sweeper, pawnbroker, tanner, goldbeater, brazier, brassfounder, iron-founder, die-sinker, lacquerer, farrier, pipeburner, tallow-chandler, bone-burner or boiler, soap-boiler, blacking-maker, undertaker, coffin-maker, trunk-or box-maker, mason. bricklayer, plasterer, carpenter, sawyer, working-smith, -tinman, -printer, -bookbinder, -hatter, -cooper, and dealers in old iron, bottles, rags, bones, dogs, birds, timber, clothes, prints and caricatures.
  • 5. The list of prohibited uses was as follows: auction rooms, school, seminary, college, madhouse, billiard-room, public concert-, music-, or ballroom, shooting gallery, police office or station, sponging- (or lock up) house, sheriff's-, tax- or public-office, betting shop, brothel, house of ill-fame, place of resort for lewd or disorderly persons, infirmary, dispensary and hospital.
  • 6. The ninth Duke, with other London landowners, opposed two telephone Bills introduced in Parliament and the eleventh Duke refused to allow the National Telephone Company to have a distributing station in the market on the grounds that the use of a telephone 'is not a thing to be encouraged in Covent Garden because it tends to diminish the quantity of goods brought into Market and consequently to decrease the tolls.' He eventually gave the company a licence to erect its poles and wires on the estate.
  • 7. G.E.C.
  • 8. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1816.
  • 9. E/BER, Estate Papers, sale documents, table of receipts.
  • 10. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1892, p. 74.
  • 11. Ibid., 1892, p. 5.
  • 12. Ibid., 1863, p. 8.
  • 13. Ibid., 1858, p. 59.
  • 14. Ibid., London Reports, vol. 2, p. 390.
  • 15. Ibid., Annual Report, 1858, p. 57.
  • 16. Ibid., London Reports, vol. 2, pp. 230, 473.
  • 17. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 245.
  • 18. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 69.
  • 19. Ibid., Correspondence, Haedy to Duke of Bedford, 20 Nov. 1840.
  • 20. CWA, 1700 et seq.; B.O.L., Correspondence, passim.
  • 21. E/BER, file of letters about Venison Feast.
  • 22. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1820.
  • 23. Ibid., 1835.
  • 24. Ibid., 1879, vol. 2, p. 6.
  • 25. Ibid., London Reports, vol. 1, p. 151.
  • 26. 7 Geo. IV, c. 77, public.
  • 27. B.O.L., Muniment Register II, pp. 1010–12, 1021, III, p. 59; Fifth Report of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, 1826, Appendix 23; Sixth Report…, 1829, p. 148; Eighth Report…, 1831, p. 51.
  • 28. 1 and 2 William IV, c. 29, public.
  • 29. P.R.O., CREST 26/163, 1 March 1830.
  • 30. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1850, p. 3.
  • 31. Survey of London, vol. XXXIV, 1966, p. 351.
  • 32. B.O.L., Annual Reports, 1844, pp. 24–5; 1845, pp. 11–12.
  • 33. Ibid., Correspondence, Duke of Bedford to Haedy, 10 Oct. 1845.
  • 34. Ibid., Annual Report, 1845, pp. 11–12.
  • 35. Percy J. Edwards, History of London Street Improvements, 1855–1897, 1898, p. 26.
  • 36. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1850, pp. 3–4.
  • 37. Ibid., 1856, pp. 4–5; 1857, p. 6; 20 and 21 Vict., c. 115, local.
  • 38. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1858, pp. 4–5.
  • 39. Edwards, op. cit., p. 27.
  • 40. The Builder, 18 Jan. 1868, p. 51.
  • 41. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1894, p. 206.
  • 42. Ibid., Annual Report, 1861, p. 111; Edwards, op. cit., p. 26.
  • 43. B.O.L., Annual Reports, 1862, p. 80; 1864, p. 14; 1867, vol. 1, p. 169.
  • 44. Ibid., 1867, vol. 1, p. 170.
  • 45. Ibid., Correspondence, Duke of Bedford to Haedy, 10 Oct. 1845.
  • 46. Ibid., Annual Report, 1854, pp. 2–3.
  • 47. Ibid., 1857, p. 6; London Reports, vol. 2, p. 13.
  • 48. Ibid., Annual Report, 1860, pp. 2–3.
  • 49. Ibid., 1861, p. 110.
  • 50. Ibid., pp. 112–13.
  • 51. Ibid., 1860, pp. 2–3.
  • 52. Ibid., London Reports, vol. 2, pp. 8–11.
  • 53. Ibid., p. 107.
  • 54. Ibid., Annual Report, 1887, p. 172.
  • 55. Ibid., 1861, p. 110.
  • 56. Ibid., 1857, p. 5; 1861, p. 109.
  • 57. P.P., Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings, 1887, vol. XIII, p. 568.
  • 58. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1877, vol. 2, p. 1.
  • 59. Ibid., London Reports, vol. 2, p. 221; vol. 3, p. 158; E/BER, licence of 10 Dec. 1902.
  • 60. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1877, vol. 2, pp. 2–3.
  • 61. P.P., Report… on Town Holdings, 1887, pp. 565–89 passim.
  • 62. Ibid., pp. 46, 62.
  • 63. Frank Banfield, The Great Landlords of London, N.D., pp. 23, 75–6, 92.