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Chenies Street Chambers
Historical Society
c/o flat 18 Chenies Street Chambers

Camden Leisure & Community

Website of the Month - Family History Monthly Magazine

9-11 Chenies Street
London WC1
Chenies Street Chambers
larger detail of building
(152 kb)


Chenies Street Chambers is a late Victorian building which runs east-west between Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road. It was originally a purpose-built Ladies Residential Dwelling (built in 1888, according to an old print) and first recorded as 'Chenies Chambers Ladies Dwelling' in the 1891 London Census.

Builder's Report and Engineering Times
Friday June 8, 1888 page 461

Bloomsbury - For the erection of ladies's residential chambers, Chenies-street W.
Mr. J.M Brydon. architect. Quantities by Messrs. Franklin and Andrews.

Bray and Pope
Perkins, Robt
Jarrett, Chas
Perry & Co.
Higgs & Hill
Patman & Fotheringham
Holland & Haman
Chappell, J.T.
Brass & Son*

*accepted, as amended, at 7,500 .

Chenies Street Chambers is on the north side of Chenies Street, adjoining a small building which adjoins 11 Fitzroy House on its south-west side, with North Crescent (originally built in 1798) to the west. Since the late 1940's, its entrance has been in Huntley Street, and on its north-east side, it adjoins 1-9 Huntley Street (the former Nurse's residences, owned by UCLH, now left empty and derelict). Chenies Street Chambers is across the street from RADA (18 Chenies Street) and The Drill Hall Arts Centre (16 Chenies Street).

It is on the southwest corner of Huntley Street, facing Ridgmount Gardens, a handsome Victorian residential building of the same period. To the south of Ridgmount Gardens at the corner of Ridgmount Street and Chenies Street (20-22 Chenies Street) is a hole in the ground (November 2001). This hole belongs to RADA and the two pleasant 19th century buildings which used to be there were demolished in 2001, in spite of extensive neighbourhood protest, so that RADA could redevelop the site as luxury flats. With the demolition of these buildings, it is essential that the remaining 19th century designed buildings in its immediate vicinity (Chenies Street Chambers and Ridgmount Gardens ) are retained to keep the 1882 Drill Hall in its appropriate setting.

This website will celebrate the cultural heritage of former residents of the building and the neighbourhood, including gathering oral history from the tenants and residents of Chenies Street Chambers.

Until something has been confirmed, please note the use the word 'rumoured' (as in - Chenies Street Chambers was rumoured to have once been a Grade 3 listed building.) This rumour may turn out to be true. The architect, J.M. Brydon, also built the New Hospital For Women on Euston Road (also known as the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, after its founder)  and the extension of the Pump Room in Bath. Chenies Street Chambers is noted as one of his achievements in his obituary. Although Camden Council has no record of the building being listed, the most recent buyer of Flat 33  says that the building is described as listed on his leasehold papers (circa January 2003).

Some of the rumours, though romantic, are not true. It is rumoured that it was a Home For Distressed Gentlewomen at some point (not pregnant, just distressed) and pillars and angels still remain from what was assumed to be the chapel in the basement. Actually the 'chapel' was the dining hall for the building, and the ladies were never more than genteelly 'distressed.' (For a full history of Chenies Street Chambers, please see Elizabeth Crawford's wonderful history, Enterprising Women: The Garretts and Their Circle (London:Francis Boutle Books,2002)
There is a secondary rumour which may be true, however. The rumour is that people can remember nuns living in  the building in the 1930's and that the dining room WAS used as chapel (source of rumour: Pat Stimpson, resident, May 2003).

Chenies Street Chambers Ladies Residential Dwellings was the project of a small circle of practical socialists, professional women and suffragettes who lived in Bloomsbury in the 1880's. It was a building of purpose-built flats, designed to provide homes for professional single or widowed women who wanted not only a safe dwelling-place but also a like-minded community of educated, artistic women.

The Victorian interior designer, Agnes Garrett (1845-1935) and her sister Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) were amongst the founders of the Ladies Dwellings Company (LDC) responsible for building Chenies Street Chambers (1888) and its companion building, York Street Chambers Marylebone (1891). These were the most successful and architecturally ambitious schemes of their kind in central London and they lead to other similar residential projects developed by the LDC in Kensington, Chelsea, and Earl's Court.

The scheme combined the privacy of separate living quarters (including private W.C. and kitchen facilities) with the choice of a communal dining room, and it was an immediate success, although not an unqualified one. Residents complained almost immediately about the food (to such an extent that in 1896, the directors instructed the cooks at both Chambers to be given instruction by Col. Kenney Herbert, author of Common Sense Cookery). The residents also complained about the charges, the lack of provision for their bicycles, the poor management and the staffing.

'I am leaving because of the irritating rules. They should avoid treating tenants as a cross between a pauper lunatic and a rebellious schoolgirl.'

 (complaint, circa 1900, reported in Emily Hobhouse's 'Women Workers: How They Live, How They Wish To Live' in Nineteenth Century, March 1900).  These complaints can also be found being raised  about Camden Council in almost any meeting of the current Chenies Street Chambers Tenants Residents Association, circa 2003.

By 1896, the complaints about the food  in the communal dining room became so undeniable that the cooks at both Chenies Street Chambers and York Buildings were given lessons in cookery  by Col. Kenny-Herbert, the author of a popular cook book,  Common Sense Cookery.

A recipe from Common Sense Cookery

In spite of the complaints about food and management, Chenies Street Chambers  has had many distinguished artistic residents, including  Olive Schreiner in 1889 (famous for her books The Story of a South African Farm and Women and Labour).   Ladies Dwellings Residents included, at various times,  Emily Penrose, the head of Bedford College, the archaeologist Mary Broderick, the historian Charlotte Fell-Smith, journalist and social reformer Emily Hobhouse, novelist Adeline Sargeant and Florence Reason , a working artist, who taught at the Royal Female School of Art.

The 1891 Census also includes a 'rent collector' for the Charity Organisation Society and two physicians, as well as musicians, artists, and a lecturer in political economics which suggests the building was intended as a 'settlement' of professional women, which would have been formed with the intention of creating a community of like-minded individuals. As such, it predates the 1889 Southwark settlement of professional women which was formed with the help of of the great 19th century social reformer, Octavia Hill.

We know from the angel panels in the basement that Octavia Hill  also took an interest in  the community at Chenies Street Chambers.  The prominent artist Ellen Mary Rope was a former pupil of her. Ellen Mary Rope's frieze panels Faith, Hope, Charity and Heavenly Wisdom, were exhibited at the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The panels were later placed in the Ladies Dwelling, through Octavia Hill's intervention (thwarting G.F. Watts, who wanted to display them in the Southwark Gallery).

Agnes Garrett continued to be a director of the company, attending meetings until 1931 and the Ladies Residential Dwellings continued until 1941. There is a splendid photograph of the building in 1912, showing its original features (which were not replaced after it was bombed in the Second World War).

An incendiary bomb hit the roof of the building on April 17, 1941 at 2:56 am . Although there were no casualties, the damage to the building was classified as so severe that rebuilding was not recommended. It was rebuilt, however, and resident Patsy Futatsugi (nee Morten) came to live in the building as a child of five, with her parents, in 1947. Her next door neighbour at that time (who moved in a at the age of two, with her family)  also still lives in the building, although not in her family's original flat (Diane Lesardi, who orginally lived in flat 17). Youngsters like Mary and Wag Scales remember walking past the building as a bong site, thinking it was very ugly and 'who would want to live in a building like that?'  They were given the choice of a local authority flat in Chenies Street Chambers, or nothing, and over fity years later,  they are still here (2008).

The north extension of 1897 (north of the present entrance on Huntley street) was renovated first and the first Council tenants lived in their section of the building for a full six months while the original south side of the building (now flats flats 19 and 21, 22 and 24, 25 and 27, 28 and 30, 31 and 33, 34 and 36,  facing Chenies Street) was being rebuilt.

The tradition of having social activists  in the building continued with the first Council Tenants. Patsy Futatsugi's father, Johnny Morten, was one of the protesters arrested by police, on September 12, 1946, supporting the protesting squatters who had taken over the Ivanhoe Hotel on Southampton Row. He (with his wife Pat and five-year-old daughter Patsy) moved into the newly renovated Chenies Street Chambers in 1947 and lived in the same flat until his death in 1998.

Patsy is not the only original council tenant in this building, circa 2008. Diana Lesardi moved into the building in 1947 as well, with her father and mother (flat 17) and Diana still lives in the building (although not in the original flat).

When it was rebuilt, the grand Main Entrance on Chenies Street, the south-eastern corner turret, the plaque bearing the date of construction which survived the bombing and the splendid circular window feature on the third floor, visible in the 1912 photograph, were taken down or destroyed.

Although the building has been rebuilt in similar proportions to the original, the entrance used now, in Huntley Street, was rumoured to have originally been the trades entrance, and original features, such as oak bannisters for the main entrance stairs and parquet floors were removed, or not replaced, during the rebuilding. Fortunately, the iron railings at street level remain (similar to the ones at York Street Chambers) as well as some original architraves, mouldings and Victorian wall tiles (although many of the communal corridor wall tiles were removed in 1990, during a hideous re-painting of the building by Camden Council in sprayed, mottled purple-fleck paint).  Circa 2006, the angel wing tip have now returned to their proper white colour.).

As Fanny Wilkinson (1855-1951) was one of the directors of the LDC, there must have been a garden attached to the building. This almost certainly would have been designed by Fanny Wilkinson. Circa December 2002, there is a derelict space (complete with asphalted yard, cement drying poles, many-leveled steps making wheelchair access difficult and barbed wire and cut glass on the top of the communal wall) with a single severely pruned sixty foot tall Sycamore tree.

The angels for the chapel have also fallen on hard times - half of them ('Faith' and Heavenly wisdom') were taken out in the 1970's and allegedly placed on a skip, along with the magnificent marble fireplace from the dining hall. All that remain of these missing panels are the tips of the angel wings which make up part of one of the architraves in the basement, barely discernible after having been spray over with purple-coloured 'porta-fleck' paint with which Camden Council painted the communal walls in the building in the late 1980's/early 1990's (under John Burton). Fortunately the 2002 painting of the communal walls, using Dulux Victorian Heritage colours chosen by the Tenants and Residents, approved by Camden Council District Housing Manager Marek Wiluszynski, under the supervision of Project Manager Kieran Bukowski, has returned the building to a Victorian colour scheme.

archival maps of the area:
London through the ages

historic walk

a history of the building
a census list of occupants:
[1891, 1901]

poor rates 1888-1889

archival prints and photographs of the building

air raid report on the bombing of the building
April 17th, 1941

Original features

House Numbers in Chenies Street, 1877

historic kerbstone (circa 1838)

food at Chenies Street Chambers (circa 1894)

Chenies Street Chambers, June 1, 2002

How to Apply For a Tree Preservation Order

establishing a Communal Garden 
(recommended low-maintenance no-maintenance plants)

other suggestions (applications for grants, planning, problems  etc.)

how to set up a Bicycle Club

The Angels of Chenies Street Chambers:
Ellen Mary Rope's panels

Sarah's Special Jubilee Flag

The History Project

an oral history of some of the Residents and Tenants

where to complain to Camden Council

how to complain

Setting up a Tenants Association or Residents Association

wheelchair ramps, etc.
recommended firm: Care & Mobility (outside link)

a Shiloh Group Company
[mobility, access solutions, bathing, pressure care, beds and chairs)

assuring access to all for open meetings

including how to complain - and to whom
disability concerns and sensitivity
Part Three of the Disabilities Discrimination Act

pest control in private buildings

Fire Safety Legislation (outside link)

Fire Prevention - Common Questions

Highly Recommended Businesses in our Neighbourhood

Disability Discrimination Act

Suggested Reading

Family Records Office
5 December 2001

The Garden Series:
Guest Artists, Readings and Workshops
at Chenies Street Chambers

1. John Barton 19.05.2003

2. Brenda Niskala 12.06.2003

3. Comedy Collective

4.West Euston Time Bank Purple Poets

Residents (past and present)

Elizabeth Crawford, Enterprising Women: The Garretts and Their Circle (London:Francis Boutle Books) 2002

Victorian Society member member 2002

The Victorian Society is the national society responsible for the study and protection of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and other arts. It was founded in 1958 to fight the then widespread ignorance of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. Among its thirty founder members were John Betjeman and Nikolaus Pevsner.

Interested in Bloomsbury, Camden, Holborn, Fitzrovia history?
Visit the Holborn Library Local History Archives Centre


Web Site
of the Month


Chenies Street Chambers is a late- Victorian building which runs east-west between Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road. It was purpose-built as a 'ladies' residential dwelling' and was first recorded as such in the 1891 census. This site is the history of the block and is an excellent example of how to present a local history project on the web. Records include poor rates, census material and even an air raid report dated 17th April 1941. There are plenty of attractive images and maps as well as fascinating nuggets of local history.


Family History Monthly
(managing editor: John Dean)
45 St Mary's Road
Ealing, London W5 5RQ
No. 83, August 2002, p.34

formed September 2001

ICRA Approved
(suitable for all ages

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