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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 E/BER
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Full title: BEDFORD (DUKE OF)
Date(s): 1552-1922
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 80.84 linear metres (approx. 1900 files).
Name of creator(s): Russell | family | Dukes of Bedford


Administrative/Biographical history:

The history of the Covent Garden estate will be found in full detail in Vol. XXXVI of the Survey of London (St. Paul, Covent Garden). The land, originally an orchard of Westminster Abbey (hence Convent or Covent Garden) was acquired from the Crown by John Russell, first Earl of Bedford (c.1485-1555) in 1552, and developed between 1630 and 1641 by Francis Russell, fourth Earl (1593-1641) between 1630 and 1641, as the first planned housing scheme in London. Inigo Jones appears to have been largely responsible for planning the lay-out, the central feature of which was an Italian-style 'piazza', the first London square, which later became Covent Garden Market. Many of the records relate to the development of the Market, which was leased by the Bedford Estate during the late 17th and 18th centuries, but actually administered by the Estate during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Other records concern Drury Lane Theatre and the Covent Garden Theatre (now Opera House).

All the property was sold by the eleventh Duke of Bedford in 1918. The Surrey estate, acquired by the Howland family of London and Streatham during the 17th century, came into the possession of the Russells through the marriage of Elizabeth Howland in 1696 to Wriothesley Russell, later second Duke of Bedford (1680-1711). The land was mainly in Streatham (the Manor of Tooting Bec) extending into Stockwell (in Lambeth) and Wandsworth and in Rotherhithe, on the Thames. Soon after the Russell-Howland marriage, land at Rotherhithe was leased to a firm of shipwrights, the Wells family, for making the 'Great Wet Dock', now the Greenland Dock. From 1745 to 1763 the Dock, previously run by lessees, was administered directly by the Bedford Estate; the resultant accounts and other records have been described in a separate sub-section of the catalogue.

The Rotherhithe dock was sold in 1763 and the other Rotherhithe property in 1800-1801. The Streatham, etc., property seems to have been sold piecemeal between about 1790 and 1816; the manorial rights of Tooting Bec were sold in 1816. A small estate at Cheam, left to Lord John Russell, in 1729 by the Rev. R. L. Lloyd, was administered with the Streatham estate until it was sold tothe Northey family in 1755. (See Lysons, Environs of London, I, 138).

The Bedford estates were well organized and the Bedford Office in London appears to have exercised strict control over sub-agents administering the different estates. The Covent Garden sites were originally let in the 17th century on building leases, many for 31 or 41 years and later on leases of various lengths, but most usually 21 years. Only St. Paul's Church and a 'model' range of Piazza houses were built by direct labour (by the 4th Earl), but general uniformity of height and architecture was obtained by control of the lessees under the terms of leases. Detailed lists of leases have been made for the purpose of the Survey of London volume on Covent Garden and reference can be made to these from the summary list. Far fewer leases of the Surrey properties have been preserved.

Many accounts and vouchers have survived for both Covent Garden and Surrey estates. Surviving estate papers and correspondence are numerous, but patchy except for the last period of Covent Garden papers, from about 1870 onwards. There is a large collection of 19th century architects' plans and drawings for the Covent Garden area and the Market.

One feature of interest is that produce was regularly sent from the Streatham estate to London, by waggons which sometimes brought back plants, young trees, etc., while wood for burning was sent to the Bedford Office in London and rubbish collected by the empty waggons. Very possibly more stray records relating to the Covent Garden and Surrey estates may emerge from the Bedford Office or from Woburn.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the estates of the Russell family, Dukes of Bedford, in Covent Garden, Streatham and Rotherhithe, 16th to 19th Century. These records are of properties no longer owned by the Bedford Estate and none of them relate to Bloomsbury. The papers include title deeds, leases, abstracts of title, surveys, valuations, maps, plans, rentals, financial accounts, correspondence, legal papers, printed items, papers relating to Covent Garden market and Rotherhithe docks.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The record are arranged into 3 sub-fonds:
E/BER/CG: Covent Garden Estate;
E/BER/S: Surrey Estate;
E/BER/T: Surrey Estate.

Conditions governing access:

Open access unless stated otherwise.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

'Deeds of several manors, rectories, advowsons and hereditaments, late the estate of the Revd Mr Lloyd' in Nonsuch alias Cuddington, Ewell, and West and East Cheam. These were handed over in 1755 to the purchaser, Edward Northey, Esq. (note in Bedford Office Register II, p. 1264, dated 1763), but are recorded in some detail on pp. 1264-1271 of Register II, of which photocopies are held by LMA. The originals, except for a few which are missing, are now deposited with the Guildford Borough Muniment Room, as records of the Northey family, ref. 10. and not at L.M.A.

Records (unnumbered) mainly concerning litigation by Lloyd family for recovery of tithes in Nonsuch alias Cuddington These records were handed over in 1755 to Edward Northey, Esq. (note in Bedford Office Register A, p. 254) but are described in some detail on pp. 248-254 of Register A, of which photocopies are held by L.M.A. The present location of the original documents is unknown; they are not among records of the Northey family now deposited in the Guildford Borough Muniment Room, nor are they at London Metropolitan Archives. See also S/T/II/F.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records deposited in multiple accessions between 1968 and 1971.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There are a large number of papers relating to the Dukes of Bedford deposited at various repositories. See entry for "Russell family, Dukes of Bedford" in the National Register of Archives (available on The National Archives website).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Records prepared May to September 2011.

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