Who Was Who in Bedford Square?

February 1, 2019


Who Was Who in Bedford Square?


Laid out between 1776 and 1780, Bedford Square’s grand facades and spacious garden reflected refined 18th century tastes. Today most of the properties are offices, but who occupied the houses in earlier times?

Neighbours in the 1920s included Henry Massingham, journalist (no 21), Sir George Prothero, FBA, Editor of the Quarterly Review (no 24), H. B. Earle Fox, Editor of the British Numismatic Journal (no 43) and 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, otherwise known as Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War (no 4). Asquith’s telephone number is given in his Who’s Who entry as ‘Museum 6464’. His son, Raymond Asquith, a lawyer, had lived at no 49 but was killed in action at the Somme in 1916. Next door at no 48 was James Orrock who began his career as a dental surgeon but then studied art and described himself as ‘artist, essayist, connoisseur, expert’. Across the Square at no 22 an elaborate stone plaque commemorates Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, theatre actor; it had also been the home of his father John Forbes-Robertson, an art critic.

Unsurprisingly Bedford Square was popular with architects: a Blue Plaque honours William Butterfield who lived at no 42. At no 53 was Sir Howard Robertson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects 1952-54, and Ralph Wornum was at no 26. Another architect, Halsey Ricardo, whose work included the railway station in Howrah, India, was at no 13, and there is a Blue Plaque for his son, Sir Harry Ricardo, FRS, engineer, who lived at the same property.

Bedford Square has a long association with publishers and literary agents, including Andrew Wylie’s The Wylie Agency (no 17) and Jonathan Cape’s Jonathan Cape Publishers (no 30). Bookseller Martyn Goffhttps://doi.org/10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U17361, CBE founded ‘Bedford Square Book Bang’ in 1971, an innovative literary festival held in the square which attracted 50,000 visitors. At no 13 was Sir Cuthbert Whitaker, Editor of Whitaker’s Almanack, and later at the same property was Edmond Segrave, Editor of The Bookseller.

A Blue Plaque at no 41 tells us that author Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins lived there 1903-1917; his novels included ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ and ‘The King’s Mirror’. Meanwhile Haydn Brown (no 53), a neurological specialist, wrote books in the 1890s including ‘The Secret of Good Health and Long Life’ and ‘Advice to Single Women’.