Victorian London - Districts - Streets - Holborn

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Holborn is a continuation of Oxford-street, the link between east and west. It is a great thoroughfare, but its shops are not of such a class as would be expected from that circumstance. Holborn, in fact, suffers from being neither one thing nor the other. It is too far east for the fashionable world to come to it for their purchases; it is too far west for the business men of the City; consequently it contains few first-class shops or warehouses. Until within the last few years the row of houses which narrowed the street at the Bar formed one of the most curious bits of old London remaining; and the removal of the row, although immensely improving the general aspect of Holborn, has greatly altered its character. The line of houses, however, still remaining at this point on the south side of the street, opposite Furnival’s-inn, are still well worth seeing, as being by far the most perfect specimens of old street architecture, with its wooden beams and projecting upper storeys, remaining in London. The two chief streets, or rather lanes, which run into Holborn are Chancery-lane, leading down past Lincoln’s-inn to Fleet-street, and Gray’s-inn-lane, leading to King’s-cross. Gray’s-inn, of which only the entrance is visible in Holborn, half-way down on the north side, will be found described elsewhere. Holborn terminates at the circus of the same name, a handsome architectural feature, with an equestrian statue of the Prince Consort in the centre, while beyond, the Holborn-viaduct and the Fleet-valley to St. Sepulchre’s Church and Newgate. With the exception, perhaps, of Queen Victoria-street, this is the finest piece of street architecture in the City of London, and its effect is greatly increased by the fact that it is built in a curve. There is a uniformity in the general architectural design of the houses upon either side, which, although carried to a wearisome extent in many Continental towns, is very rare in London; indeed, of the great thoroughfares, Regent-street and Holborn-viaduct are the sole examples. On the right hand side, going east of the Viaduct, is the chapel of Dr. Parker, known as the City Temple. The nearest way from Holborn to Blackfriars bridge, or the Ludgate-circus at the junction of Fleet-street an Ludgate-hill, is through Shoe-lane and Bride-street; Shoe-lane runs off diagonally from Holborn-circus. From the same point Charterhouse Street leads down to the Farringdon Station of the Metropolitan Railway.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

inside Holborn Viadact

Old and New London, c.1880

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John Fletcher Porter, London Pictorially Described, [1890]

Holborn Circus - photograph

Holborn Circus, shown in
George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Holborn Viaduct, from Farringdon Street

Holborn Viaduct, from Farringdon Street - photograph


Holborn Viaduct extends from Holborn Circus to Newgate Street, a distance of 1,400 feet, and is eighty feet wide. The cost of this improvement was considerably over two millions, and the work occupied six and a half years. It was undertaken by the Corporation to avoid the inconvenient descent of Holborn Hill, and the Queen opened the new thoroughfare in person in 1869. Everybody admits that the Viaduct is a triumph of engineering skill, but a great deal of it - the accommodation, for instance, of gas - and water - pipes - is not visible. Our illustration shows the bridge that obliquely crosses Farringdon Street - a cast-iron girder bridge, with three spans, supported by twelve handsome granite piers. Further north appears one of the domes of the Central Markets.

  Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Old Houses at Holborn Bars

Old Houses at Holborn Bars - photograph


Holborn, derived from Hole Bourne, has been an important thoroughfare for centuries. Criminals travelled along it from the Tower and Newgate on their last journey to Tyburn, and the Inns of Court on either side made it busy. It escaped the Great Fire, but modern improvements have greatly altered its character, least so, however, at the spot known as Holborn Bars, where are some picturesque old houses. The granite obelisk is one of those marking the site of the Bars enclosing the City Liberties, and here a toll had to be paid for carts entering the City. Through Holborn Bars entry is effected to Staple Inn, where Dr. Johnson lived and wrote "Rasselas". Holborn extends from the Viaduct to Holborn Bars; that part of the street which stretches from the Bars to Drury Lane is known as High Holborn.

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High Holborn, c.1900

HOLBORN, which is divided into Holborn proper (which reaches as far as the city boundary at Holborn Bars) and High Holborn, which extends to New Oxford-st, then turns partly to the left, is part of the upper main route from the Bank to the west and is an important thoroughfare between the two. It has within the last twenty years or so been largely rebuilt, having the huge premises in red brick of the Prudential Assurance Co., a fine building, and the high terra-cotta buildings of the Birkbeck Bank. Its businesses - Wallis' (drapers), Gamage's (cycles, etc.) and Baker's (clothiers) - are well known, and it is a good middle-class centre for shopping. The old houses opposite Gray's Inn-rd (Staple Inn) are by far the most perfect specimens of old street architecture, with their wooden beams and projecting upper stories, remaining in London. On the north side are Gray's Inn and Gray's Inn-rd (leading to King's +) and on the south side are Chancery-la (leading to Fleet-st.) and Lincoln's Inn. (See Inns of Court). The Holborn Restaurant is at the corner of Kingsway (the new route to the Strand) and opposite here is Southampton-row, which, leading to Russell-sq, has become a great centre for hotels and boarding-houses of different styles (temperance as well as others) suitable to middle-class visitors.

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)