William Roberts, barrister, author, and evangelical friend of reformers William Wilberforce and Hannah More, occupied No. 2 from 1815-25. He edited the ‘British Review,’ which was critical of the poet Byron’s work.
‘For fear some prudish readers should grow skittish’ was Byron’s revenge in ‘Don Juan ’:
I’ve bribed my Grandmother’s review, the British.
I sent it in a letter to the Editor
Who thanked me duly by return of post –
I’m for a handsome article his creditor…
Henry Thomas Buckle, author of a ‘History of Civilisation in England,’ lived at No 35 from 1825-40. This successful work was concerned with social and intellectual history, innovative and empirical in its approach. Son of a Tory father and a Calvinist mother, he became a radical and a free thinker, and his work caused some controversy. ‘Governments do no intrinsic good, at best they only correct evils previously imposed by governments’ was the kind of comment that did not please everybody. He was also a top chess player.
Samuel Parkes, at No. 30, where he died in 1825, began as a soap boiler and became a distinguished experimental and manufacturing chemist. His manuals of chemistry brought renown and the gift of a valuable ring from the Tsar of Russia. A paper on kelp and barilla brought him a silver inkstand from the Highland Society, and another on the uses of salt in gardening a silver cup from the Horticultural Society of Scotland.
Peregrine Bingham, at No. 34 from 1832-2, was a police magistrate at Great Marlborough Street, a legal writer, an ardent supporter of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham and a principal contributor to the radical ‘Westminster Review’.
William Cubitt at No. 43, 1832 – 44, civic-minded brother of Thomas (builder) and Lewis (architect of King’s Cross station), ran the firm’s large building yard nearby in Gray’s Inn Road, built Cubitt Town in Docklands and became Lord Mayor of London. He started the tradition of a Lord Mayor’s charitable fund with his fundraising for Irish famine relief.
(n.b. not to be confused with engineer Sir William Cubitt, who engineered the tunnels out of King’s Cross and who was knighted for erecting the Crystal Palace in record time so that it was ready for the Great Exhibition in 1851)
Richard Beard employed chemist John Goodard to reduce the exposure times needed to produce a daguerreotype so that the method could be used for making human portraits. In 1841 he opened England’s first photographic studio in the Polytechnic Institute in Regent Street. He lived in No 31 Mecklenburgh Square from 1849-53, and started a chain of licensed studios, one of which was in Millman Mews.
Lewis Foreman Day at No 13 from 1873 — 1892 had little competition from the camera. His early training was in stained glass, his later work extending into pottery, carpets, wallpaper and other branches of manufacture. He belonged to the same school of craftsmen as William Morris and Walter Crane. He was a founder member and master of the Art Workers Guild, now in Queen Square, and a strong promoter of the decorative arts when working for the Board of Education.
James Hayllar at No 15 from 1865-75, painter of portraits, landscapes, genre especially including children. Friend of Frederick Leighton, with whom he went to Italy in 1851, and stayed on for 2 years. Several of his paintings can be seen on the web at the time of writing this. He had nine children and three of his daughters also painted, Jessica being the best known. She exhibited at the R.A. from 1880-1915.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, writer of bestsellers, lived at 26 Mecklenburgh Square from 1862 until 1868. She was the common law wife of publisher of Temple Bar and St James ’s Magazine John Maxwell, who already had five children, and a wife in a Dublin lunatic asylum. They added another six children to the family while she wrote ‘the perfect circulating library novels, well plotted and well written’. Her first major success, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) was followed by Aurora Floyd.
Sampson Low, at No. 41 from 1869 until his death in 1886, published books. He began as a bookseller and stationer at 42 Lamb’s Conduit Street in 1819. In 1844 he met Fletcher Harper of New York, became his literary agent in London, and specialised in American books. He retired from business in 1875, but his name lives on.
George Augustus Sala, journalist — probably the most celebrated journalist of his day -and bon viveur, was at No 46 from 1877 — 1886. He described his new house to a friend as:
‘under the friendly wing of the Governors of the Foundling Hospital, northwest comer, no – thoroughfare, nice garden in rear, one of the oldest and greenest of full-bottom wigged Squares in front, and a shilling cab fare to one’s offices and one’s club.’
Sala set out to be an artist, but became interested in journalism. Dickens gave him his first opening in Household Words, also his first job as a foreign correspondent, in Russia. In 1857 he became foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, writing on average 10 articles a week. He was a collector of china, glass and rare books, and No 46 filled with his high Victorian treasures is described in a contemporary art magazine. He wrote several till very readable books on his travels, of which the library has Paris (1880) where he was arrested at one time as a spy.
Hon. Lewis Strange Wingfield, No. 47 from 1881-7. Traveller, the first Englishman to explore the interior of China. Qualified as a surgeon. Was a successful actor at the Haymarket, designed costumes for the likes of Lily Langtry, painted pictures good enough to be hung at the Academy, wrote novels, reported on the Siege of Paris from a balloon…
Sir Robert Lush. No. 34, 1845-50. Called to the Bar 1840. Q.C. and Bencher of Gray’s lnn 1857. Judge, 1865. He was a member of the Judicature Commission and of the Commission on the Penal Code in 1878, and of the Privy Council in 1879. In October 1880 he became Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal. Several legal publications.
Lots of barristers, solicitors, physicians, surgeons, a smattering of architects and a bevy of reverend gentlemen. Among the latter, Rev. James Augustus Hussey, No. 1 1857-64, was Headmaster of Merchant Taylors School during a period of notable reform, and Rev Alexander Mackonochie, No. 31, 1867-72 taking refuge from trouble at Anglican St Alban’s, where there was a row about his ritual being more Roman than Rome itself.
Only 1 M.P., John Benbow, No. 26, 1847-51 (probably longer – the previous occupant was also John Benbow – his father?)