In 1828 George Randell’s lease on land alongside the Fleet River expired. He made bricks and tiles, and as the drawing below shows the surrounding area was still countryside. Randell was required to fill in the workings but apparently did a somewhat skimpy job and it was only in 1839 that John Booth was able to advise William Lloyd Baker that building could safely begin. Granville Square was part of the Lloyd Baker Estate and named after Granville Sharp, a relative.
The housing was quite austere and as time passed the square deteriorated. By 1970 the buildings had been acquired by Islington Borough Council and converted to flats. Many houses had to be rebuilt or repaired because of subsidence.
This square is unusual because of the missing church. The church of St Philip was built in 1831-32 by Edward Buckton Lamb, who built in the Gothic style, and demolished in 1938. (His monogram on St Stephen Aldwark.)
The steps down from Granville Square to the Fleet Valley were the steps in Arnold Bennett‘s novel Riceyman Steps. The steps go down to Gwynne Place, named after Nell Gwynne who apparently had a country mansion in this area, the site of the Bagnigge Wells. The Fleet has been described as the ‘river of wells‘ and Black Mary’s Hole was in this vicinity – I can’t quite pin it down today, but the map of 1814 (Mapco) gives a good indication.
You may be interested in
Granville Square A Walk with Arnold Bennett’s Book The River of Wells – interesting writing by Chesca Potter, who seems to have disappeared
Lost Bagnigge – excellent post with photographs and maps
I was delighted to come across this web page. My sister lived in Granville Square in the 1960’s with her husband and their baby daughter, Katie. I visited often. The garden in the centre of the Square provided a little haven for mums to sit and watch their children play, and it was safely locked up at night by the park-keeper. At that time the Square was pretty run down and most of the properties had been converted into flats. The flats were pretty basic – my sister and her family lived on the two upper floors and their ‘bathroom’ was a tin bath that hung from a hook in the kitchen. The lavatory, which was downstairs, on a half-landing, was rather gloomy (but always clean) and it was shared with the downstairs tenants. Washing was dried on a pulley-line that ran between adjacent house walls and it was accessed by leaning out of the open kitchen window: a Health and Safety nighmare! If you dropped anything whilst pegging out your washing you had to go down a few flights of stairs to the basement flat and ask the tenant if you could retrieve it from their back yard. Despite their poor state of repair, the properties still retained a certain faded grandeur from years gone by. Later, the landlord was served with a notice, by the council, to improve the flat and install a proper bathroom – I believe that a young firebrand at the council by the name of Ken Livingstone played a large part in getting the housing improvements carried out in Granville Square.
Thank you for this information – local knowledge and history is so easily lost, and publishers are reluctant to touch local history books as well. It is hard to believe that the conditions you describe were only 60 years ago – I wonder how today’s young generation would cope?
I once worked in the building occupying the north-west corner of the square. A large, rambling property, it covered four storeys with access on Gwynne place. It had a roof over the lower floor that allowed sighting of the open area below where the trains passed. The railway actually did run through the middle of the house – just like the old song said.
Thank you for this page. My mum lived at Granville Square and always said they’d been a church where the park now stands. She found the information in a book on London, but that was lost over the years. I used to travel from Kings Cross station to her home, walking through the back streets, and had totally forgotten about the steps leading up from the Hotel directly into Granville Square – I hadn’t even recognised them in the sketch. This brought back very happy memories of her and her love of history. We’d take walks around Percy Circus, Cumberland Gdns and Lloyd Baker Street. The houses in the area are beautiful. There always seemed to be TV production companies filming there too. Poirot and the odd film. Thanks again.