Holborn: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 51°31′02″N 0°07′06″W / 51.5172°N 0.1182°W / 51.5172; -0.1182

Holborn is located in Greater London

 Holborn shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ305815
London borough Camden
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district WC1, WC2
Postcode district EC1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Holborn and St. Pancras
London Assembly Barnet and Camden
List of places: UK • England • London

Holborn (pronounced /ˈhoʊbɚn/ HOE-bərn or / ˈhoʊbən/ HOE-bən)[a] is an area of Central London, England. Holborn is also the name of the area's principal east-west street, running from St Giles's High Street as High Holborn to Gray's Inn Road to Holborn Viaduct, crossing the borders of the City of Westminster, London Borough of Camden and the City of London.



"Old Holborn": Staple Inn in 1900

The area's first mention is in a charter of Westminster Abbey, by King Edgar, dated to 959. This mentions "the old wooden church of St Andrew" (St Andrew, Holborn).[1] It was then outside the City's jurisdiction and a part of Ossulstone Hundred in Middlesex. In the 12th century St Andrew's was noted in local title deeds as lying on "Holburnestrate"—Holborn Street.[2]

The name Holborn may be derived from the Middle English "hol" for hollow, and bourne, a brook, referring to the River Fleet as it ran through a steep valley to the east.[1][3] Historical cartographer William Shepherd in his Plan of London about 1300 labels the Fleet as "Hole Bourn" where it passes to the east of St Andrew's church.[4] However, the 16th century historian John Stow attributes the name to the Old Bourne ("old brook"), a small stream which he believed ran into the Fleet at Holborn Bridge, a structure lost when the river was culverted in 1732. The exact course of the stream is uncertain, but according to Stow it started in one of the many small springs near Holborn Bar, the old City toll gate on the summit of Holborn Hill.[3][5] Other historians, however, find the theory implausible, in view of the slope of the land.[6]

The original Bars were the boundary of the City of London from 1223, when the City's jurisdiction was extended beyond the Walls, at Newgate, into the suburb here, as far as the point where the Bars where erected, until 1994 when the border moved to the junction of Chancery Lane. In 1394 the Ward of Farringdon Without was created, but only the south side of Holborn was under its jurisdiction with some minor properties, such as parts of Furnival's Inn, on the northern side, "above Bars". The rest of the area "below Bars" (outside the City's jurisdiction) was organised by the vestry board of St Andrew's parish.[7] Thus the original part of Holborn was never incorporated into the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn. The Metropolitan Borough of Holborn was created in 1899. It was abolished in 1965 and its area now forms part of the London Borough of Camden.

In the 18th century, Holborn was the location of the infamous Mother Clap's molly house but in the modern era High Holborn has become a centre for entertainment venues to suit more general tastes: 22 inns or taverns were recorded in the 1860s and the Holborn Empire, originally Weston's Music Hall, stood between 1857 and 1960, when it was pulled down after structural damage sustained in the Blitz. The theatre premièred the first full-length feature film in 1914, The World, the Flesh and the Devil, a 50-minute melodrama filmed in Kinemacolour.[8]

Charles Dickens took up residence in Furnival's Inn, on the site of the former Prudential building designed by Alfred Waterhouse and named "Holborn Bars". Dickens also put his character "Pip", in Great Expectations, in residence at Barnard's Inn opposite, the current home of Gresham College, and Staple Inn, notable as the promotional image for "Old Holborn" tobacco. The three of these were Inns of Chancery. The most northerly of the Inns of Court, Gray's Inn, is in Holborn, as is Lincoln's Inn: the area has been associated with the legal professions since mediaeval times. Subsequently the area diversified and become recognisable as the modern street. A plaque stands at number 120 commemorating Thomas Earnshaw's invention of the Marine chronometer, which facilitated long-distance travel. At the corner of Hatton Garden was the old family department store of Gamages. Until 1992, the London Weather Centre was located in the street. The Prudential insurance company relocated in 2002. The Daily Mirror offices used to be directly opposite it, but the site is now occupied by the J Sainsbury head office.

Further east, in the gated avenue of Ely Place, is St Etheldreda's Church, originally the chapel of the Bishop of Ely’s London palace. This ecclesiastical connection allowed the street to remain part of the county of Cambridgeshire until the mid 1930s. This meant that the Mitre Tavern, located in a court hidden behind the buildings of the Place and the Garden was subject to the Cambridgeshire Magistrates to grant its licence.[9][10] St Etheldreda's is the oldest church building used for Roman Catholic worship in London, but this became so only after it ceased to be an Anglican chapel in the 19th century.

Hatton Garden, the centre of the diamond trade, was leased to a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Christopher Hatton at the insistence of the Queen to provide him with an income. Behind the Prudential Building lies the Anglo-Catholic church of St Alban the Martyr.[11] Originally built in 1863 by architect William Butterfield it was destroyed in 1941 and a new church was built in the Victorian Gothic style. The current vicar is the Venerable Howard Levett.[12] On the southern side lie Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane.

On Holborn Circus lies the Church of St Andrew, an ancient Guild Church that survived the Great Fire of London. However the parochial authority decided to commission Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild it. Although the nave was destroyed in the Blitz, the reconstruction was faithful to Wren's original. In the middle of the Circus there is a large equestrian statue of Prince Albert by Charles Bacon (1874), the City's official monument to him. It was presented by Charles Oppenheim, of the Diamond Trading Company De Beers, whose headquarters building is in nearby Charterhouse Street.

Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel

In the early 21st century, Holborn has become the site of new offices and hotels: for example, the old neoclassical Pearl Assurance building near the junction with Kingsway was converted into the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in 1999. These exploit the excellent public transport links (Holborn underground station is the junction of the Central and Piccadilly lines) and the strategic location between the City of London and the West End.


For education within the Westminster portion of Holborn see the main City of Westminster article.

Transport and locale


Nearest places

Nearest underground stations

Notable people

The following is a list of notable people who were born in Holborn or are significantly connected with Holborn.

  • Sir John Barbirolli conductor, was born in Southampton Row (Blue Plaque above pub)
  • Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), English poet born in Bristol died in a garret in Holborn at the age of 17. A posthumous darling of the Romantics, he is now remembered as 'the marvellous Boy' (Wordsworth). The Victorian Henry Wallis returned to Chatterton's Brooke Street room to paint George Meredith, the novelist, in a now frequently copied pose of the dead poet (Tate Britain).
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), composer, born at 15 Theobalds Road. Won international acclaim for his works especially the Song of Hiawatha Trilogy.
  • Charles Dickens lived in Doughty Street where there is a museum
  • Naomi Lewis (1911-2009), advocate of animal rights, poet, children's author and teacher, lived in Red Lion Square 1935-2009.
  • Eric Morley, founder of Miss World was born in Holborn.
  • John Shaw Jr - (1803–1870); born in Holborn, Shaw was an English architect of the 19th century who was complimented as a designer in the "Manner of Wren".
  • Barry Sheene MBE - (11 September 1950 – 10 March 2003); spent his early years in Holborn, Sheene was a British former World Champion Grand Prix motorcycle road racer.


  • a. ^ Pronunciation: The authoritative BBC pronunciation unit recommends "ˈhəʊbə(r)n", but allowing "sometimes also hohl-buhrn". The organisation's less formal Pronouncing British Placenames notes that "You'll occasionally find towns where nobody can agree...Holborn in central London has for many years been pronounced 'hoe-bun', but having so few local residents to preserve this, it's rapidly changing to a more natural 'hol-burn'".[13][14] However, Modern British and American English pronunciation (2008) cites "Holborn" as one of its examples of a common word where the "l" is silent.[15] The popular tourist guide The Rough Guide to Britain sticks to the traditional form, with neither "l" nor "r": pronounced /ˈhoʊbən/ HOE-bən.[16]


  1. ^ a b Lethaby, William (1902). London before the conquest. London: Macmillan. p. 60.  
  2. ^ Harben, Henry (1918). A Dictionary of London. London: Herbert Jenkins.  
  3. ^ a b Besant, Walter; Mitton, Geraldine (1903). Holborn and Bloomsbury. The Fascination of London (Project Gutenberg, 2007 ed.). London: Adam and Charles Black. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21411/21411-8.txt. Retrieved 13 August 2008.  
  4. ^ Shepherd, William R (1926). Historical atlas (3 ed.). University of London. p. 75. OCLC 253088196. http://lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/london_plan_1300.jpg.  
  5. ^ Strype, John (1720). "Rivers and other Waters serving this City". Survey of London. The Stuart London Project. Online edition: University of Sheffield 2007. http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/strype/TransformServlet?page=book1_024&display=print.  
  6. ^ Lethaby (1902:48)
  7. ^ The Parish of St Andrew Holborn pp11-12 Caroline Barron London 1979
  8. ^ The World, the Flesh and the Devil at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Vitaliev, Vitali (3 January 2003). "Things that go bump on the map". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/726471/Things-that-go-bump-on-the-map.html. Retrieved 12 August 2008.  
  10. ^ Hammond, Derek (28 June 2006). "Secret London: Ye Olde Mitre Tavern". Time Out. http://www.timeout.com/london/bars/features/1614.html. Retrieved 12 August 2008.  
  11. ^ St Alban the Martyr accessed 17 May 2007
  12. ^ The Parish Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, stalbans-holborncom
  13. ^ Olausson, Lena (2006). "Holborn". Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation, The Essential Handbook of the Spoken Word (3 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 173. ISBN 0192807102.  
  14. ^ "Pronouncing British Placenames". BBC. 7 March 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A19773499. Retrieved 21 November 2009.  
  15. ^ Dretzke, Burkhard (2008). Modern British and American English pronunciation. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schöningh. p. 63. ISBN 3825220532.  
  16. ^ Roberts, Andrew; Matthew Teller (2004). The Rough Guide to Britain. London: Rough Guides Ltd. p. 109. ISBN 1843533014.  


External links

London/Holborn-Clerkenwell travel guide from Wikitravel

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HOLBORN, a central metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded N.W. by St Pancras, N.E. by Finsbury, S.E. by the City of London, S. and W. by the City of Westminster and St Marylebone. Pop. (1901), 59,405. Area 405.1 acres. Its main thoroughfare is that running E. and W. under the names of Holborn Viaduct, High Holborn and New Oxford Street.

The name of Holborn was formerly derived from Old Bourne, a tributary of the Fleet, the valley of which is clearly seen where Holborn Viaduct crosses Farringdon Street. Of the existence of this tributary, however, there is no evidence, and the origin of the name is found in Hole-bourne, the stream in the hollow, in allusion to the Fleet itself. The fall and rise of the road across the valley before the construction of the viaduct (1869) was abrupt and inconvenient. In earlier times a bridge here crossed the Fleet, leading from Newgate, while a quarter of a mile west of the viaduct is the site of Holborn Bars, at the entrance to the City, where tolls were levied. The better residential district of Holborn, which extends northward to Euston Road in the borough of St Pancras, is mainly within the parish of St George, Bloomsbury. The name of Bloomsbury is commonly derived from William Blemund, a lord of the manor in the 15th century. A dyke called Blemund's Ditch, of unknown origin, bounded it on the south, where the land was marshy. During the 18th century Bloomsbury was a fashionable and wealthy residential quarter. The reputation of the district immediately to the south, embraced in the parish of St Giles in the Fields, was far different. From the 17th century until modern times this was notorious as a home of crime and poverty. Here occurred some of the earliest cases of the plague which spread over London in 1664-1665. The opening of the thoroughfares of New Oxford Street (1840) and Shaftesbury Avenue (1855) by no means wholly destroyed the character of the district. The circus of Seven Dials, east of Shaftesbury Avenue, affords a typical name in connexion with the lowest aspect of life in London. A similar notoriety attached to Saffron Hill on the eastern confines of the borough. By a singular contrast, the neighbouring thoroughfare of Hatton Garden, leading north from Holborn Circus, is a centre of the diamond trade.

Of the ecclesiastical buildings of Holborn that of first interest is the chapel of St Etheldreda in Ely Place, opening from Holborn Circus. Ely Place takes its name from a palace of the bishops of Ely, who held land here as early as the 13th century. Here died John of Gaunt in 1399. The property was acquired by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor under Queen Elizabeth, after whom Hatton Garden is named; though the bishopric kept some hold upon it until the 18th century. The chapel, the only remnant of the palace, is a beautiful Decorated structure with a vaulted crypt, itself above groundlevel. Both are used for worship by Roman Catholics, by whom the chapel was acquired in 1874 and opened five years later after careful restoration. The present parish church of St Giles in the Fields, between Shaftesbury Avenue and New Oxford Street, dates from 1734, but here was situated a leper's hospital founded by Matilda, wife of Henry I., in i ioi. Its chapel became the parish church on the suppression of the monasteries. The church of St Andrew, the parish of which extends into the City, stands near Holborn Viaduct. It is by Wren, but there are traces of the previous Gothic edifice in the tower. Sacheverell was among its rectors (1713-1724), and Thomas Chatterton (1770) was interred in the adjacent burial ground, no longer extant, of Shoe Lane Workhouse; the register recording his Christian name as William. Close to this church is the City Temple (Congregational).

Two of the four Inns of Court, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn, lie within the borough. Of the first the Tudor gateway opens upon Chancery Lane. The chapel, hall and residential buildings surrounding the squares within, are picturesque, but of later date. To the west lie the fine square, with public gardens, still called, from its original character, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Gray's Inn, between High Holborn and Theobald's Road, and west of Gray's Inn Road, is of similar arrangement. The fabric of the small chapel is apparently of the 14th century, and may have been attached to the manor house of Portpool, held at that period by the Lords Grey of Wilton. Of the former Inns of Chancery attached to these Inns of Court the most noteworthy buildings remaining are those of Staple Inn, of which the timbered and gabled Elizabethan front upon High Holborn is a unique survival of its character in a London thoroughfare; and of Barnard's Inn, occupied by the Mercer's School. Both these were attached to Gray's Inn. Of Furnival's and Thavies Inns, attached to Lincoln's Inn, only the names remain. The site of the first is covered by the fine red brick buildings of the Prudential Assurance Company, Holborn Viaduct. Among other institutions in Holborn, the British Museum, north of New Oxford Street, is pre-eminent. The varied collections of Sir John Soane, accumulated at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, are open to view as the Soane Museum. There may also be mentioned the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln's Inn Fields, with museum; the Royal Colleges of Organists, and of Veterinary Surgeons, the College of Preceptors, the Jews' College, and the Metropolitan School of Shorthand. Among hospitals are the Italian, the Homoeopathic, the National for the paralysed and epileptic, the Alexandra for children with hip disease, and the Hospital for sick children. The Foundling Hospital, Guilford Street, was founded by Thomas Coram in 1739.

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