St George’s Circus, Bradshaw’s Hand Book, (No.94)

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Bradshaw says ‘..At the junction of the London Road with the Blackfriars Road is an obelisk standing in the centre of the open ground whence six roads branch off in different directions. It is now considered merely as the indicator of various distances [but] it was placed there in 1771 to commemorate the independent and patriotic spirit with which Brass Crosby, then Lord Mayor, released a printer who had been seized, contrary to law, by the House of Commons, and for committing the Messenger of the House to prison…’. (Patrick Sweeney’s post on St George’s Fields is excellent, and I recommend you to it for full information.)

Cary's Map of London, 1837 (Mapco)
Cary’s Map of London, 1837 (Mapco)
The Obelisk in St George's Circus (
The Obelisk in St George’s Circus (
Obelisk, St George's Circus
Obelisk, St George’s Circus

‘..Nearby at the corner of Blackfriars Road is the Surrey Theatreoriginally opened in 1782 as a Circus by Messrs Hughes and Dibdin..’. The theatre was actually called the Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic AcademyIt burned down and was rebuilt in 1806 as theatre. After several changes of management, and of use, the building was closed in 1924 and the site is now flats.

Surrey Theatres (
Surrey Theatres (
Surrey Theatre, Southwark
“Royal Circus” c.1865 by Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers) – (This link does not give anything to verify the authenticity of this image.). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –
McLaren House
McLaren House

‘A short distance from [the Surrey Theatre], in the Blackfriars Road, is the Magdalen Hospital established in 1758 for the relief and reformation of those unfortunate females, who, having strayed from the paths of virtue and become outcasts from society, may here find a refuge and a home.’. The institution was started in Whitechapel by Robert Dingley and Jonas Hanway to help prostitutes, particularly those under 30 years. Institutional life could be harsh but the women were trained in needlework and laundry. In 1772 the Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes moved to St George’s Fields and was eventually sold to the Peabody Trust and the Hospital moved again in c.1866, to Streatham. In 1934 it became a Approved School for young offenders but closed in 1966 and the Trust was dissolved in 1973.

Magdalen Hospital,1812 (
Magdalen Hospital,1812 (
Magdalen Hospital in Streatham (
Magdalen Hospital in Streatham (
Peabody Square
Peabody Square

‘Lower down… is the octagon building known as Rowland Hill’s Chapel, originally erected in 1784.’. In 1881 it was changed for commercial use and in 1910 it became a boxing ring! The building was destroyed by bombing in 1940-41. It stood in Charlotte Street which no longer exists, on the north side of Nelson Square on the site now occupied by TfL’s Palestra House. Rowland Hill's Chapel, 1814 (

Rowland Hill housing

You may be interested in
The Obelisk The Ring – excellent article
The Surrey Theatre
Magdalen Hospital, Streatham
The Magdalen Hospital Trust
Books about the Magdalen Hospital
The Magdalen Hospital & similar charities
Rescued Lives

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