Lloyd Baker Estate

Lloyd Baker Estate, Islington

Situated where Clerkenwell meets King’s Cross, this is a classy and well-preserved late-Georgian and Victorian estate consisting of a handful of terraced streets and two squares

upper floors of the Union Tavern

The land here was owned by the Knights Hos­pi­taller, and it passed some­time around the 1680s to Dr William Lloyd, who was then bish­op of St Asaph. He was one of the sev­en bish­ops com­mit­ted to the Tow­er in 1688.

A pub­lic house has stood on the site of the present Union Tav­ern (shown in the pho­to­graph above) since the 1740s, when it was var­i­ous­ly known as the Black Bull and the Bull in the Pound. It lay across the Fleet riv­er (which now runs beneath King’s Cross Road here) from Bag­nigge House, which was said to have been the sum­mer res­i­dence of Nell Gwynne and became a spa resort in 1758.

The estate was giv­en as part of the dowry of William Lloy­d’s great-grand­daugh­ter Mary when she mar­ried the Glouces­ter­shire vic­ar William Bak­er in 1775. By then much of the land behind the tav­ern was occu­pied by a brick- and tile-works that exca­vat­ed the slope of the Fleet val­ley here, cre­at­ing a steep­er incline.

The pub gained its mod­ern iden­ti­ty ear­ly in the 19th cen­tu­ry, pre­sum­ably hon­our­ing the 1801 union of the king­doms of Great Britain and Ire­land. The Union Tav­ern seems to have gone upmar­ket when it was rebuilt in 1819–20. Writ­ing soon after­wards, Thomas Cromwell not­ed “a respectable tav­ern and tea gar­dens, called the Union, where was for­mer­ly a pub­lic house of vul­gar fame.”

The tav­ern’s renais­sance was the first step in – and per­haps the cata­layst for – the devel­op­ment of the Lloyd Bak­er estate on the site of the for­mer brick­field and beyond it. The Rev­erend Bak­er and his son Thomas Lloyd Bak­er com­mis­sioned a plan from their sur­vey­or John Booth, who del­e­gat­ed most of the archi­tec­tur­al work to his son William.

The estate’s first hous­es were built by the Union Tav­ern’s land­lord on Bag­nigge Wells Road (now King’s Cross Road) but none of these remain.† The ear­li­est sur­viv­ing prop­er­ties went up in the mid-1820s along Bak­er Street (since renamed Lloyd Bak­er Street, to avoid con­fu­sion with its bet­ter known name­sake to the west) and Whar­ton Street. Here, William Booth designed ele­gant ter­races of semi-detached, two-storey vil­las that were built in Lon­don stock brick and sur­mount­ed by shared Gre­cian ped­i­ments.

Lloyd Street and Lloyd Square were laid out in the ear­ly 1830s. The lat­ter has a cen­tral pri­vate gar­den sur­round­ed by very grand, though com­pact, hous­es that are sim­i­lar in style to their pre­de­ces­sors.

The three-storey ter­races of Granville Square were built in the ear­ly 1840s. The archi­tec­ture here is less impos­ing than else­where on the estate, but still very fine.

Sev­er­al build­ings and the Union Tav­ern’s gar­dens had to be sac­ri­ficed when the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Rail­way came through in 1865. Col­lat­er­al dam­age to the tav­ern itself prompt­ed its com­plete recon­struc­tion in 1877–8. At the same time, the shops at num­bers 2a and 2b King’s Cross Road replaced a brew­house and sta­bles.

Hidden London: Lloyd Square - Lloyd Baker estate
Lloyd Square and Bethany House

On the east side of Lloyd Square, the Ken­tish archi­tect Ernest New­ton built a house of retreat for the Sis­ters of Bethany in 1882–4, which was extend­ed c.1905 and 1935. The retreat’s main build­ing is now called Bethany House and is owned by Irish Cen­tre Hous­ing – which pro­vides sup­port and accom­mo­da­tion for home­less and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, at this loca­tion for women only.

At the far north­ern tip of the estate, the flats of Cable House were built in 1948 after wartime bomb­ing had wrecked the orig­i­nal homes at the cor­ner of Lloyd Street and Great Per­cy Street.

The estate remained in the fam­i­ly until the death of Olive Lloyd Bak­er in 1975. Three years lat­er, 95 hous­es were sold to the Lon­don Bor­ough of Isling­ton. Accord­ing to the Amwell Soci­ety’s web­site, these were then “brought up to basic stan­dards by, for exam­ple, installing bath­rooms. [‘Miss Olive’ appar­ent­ly had­n’t had the funds to improve her prop­er­ties but did enjoy a glass of her ten­ants’ sher­ry when she vis­it­ed for annu­al inspec­tions.] Many of the hous­es on the Lloyd Bak­er estate are still ten­ant­ed, while oth­ers, as they have become vacant, have been sold free­hold and ren­o­vat­ed.”

The Lloyd Bak­er estate now forms part of Isling­ton’s sprawl­ing New Riv­er con­ser­va­tion area.

Postal district: WC1
Further Reading: Philip Temple (ed.), Survey of London: Volume 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville, Yale University Press, 2008 (stunningly comprehensive though very expensive, but at least partially available online)
Bing bird’s eye view: Lloyd Baker Estate


* The picture of Lloyd Square on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stephen McKay, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
† A slightly later house does survive at No.4 King’s Cross Road. It was built in the 1830s by the Union Tavern’s landlord.