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London In The 18th Century

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Although London is ranked the second largest city in the European Union area, it is not particularly distinguished by a predominant architectural style or any striking monuments or dramatic public buildings that so many of its neighboring cities such as Paris or Rome boast. In 1766, John Gwynn described London as being “inconvenient, inelegant, and without the least pretension to magnificence or grandeur …” (Gwynn, 45). Although the architecture since the time of John Gwynn may not satisfy his desire for magnificence or grandeur, many parts of London have grown to exhibit strong, distinguished urban qualities. This is mainly due to the development of the ‘Great Estates’ and the influences of their landowners. While Louis XIV imposed his grand…show more content…
During his reign, however, Henry VIII purchased or expropriated most of the land that is known today as the West End. The dissolution of the monasteries, during which Henry VII disbanded Roman Catholic monasteries, brought upon major changes in the ownership of land previously owned by the Church (See Figure 1). As a result, by the end of the 17th century, most of the area ended up in private hands because Henry VIII and his successors leased or sold acres of land in an attempt to gain funds or reward court favorites. These private landowners had great impact on their estates and the development of London. Since the spreading of land to various owners, London has progressed as a series of estates, each located in distinctive areas within the capital and each with a unique…show more content…
Although they had acquired the land a full century earlier, it was not until the granting of building agreements for Bedford Square in 1776 that advanced construction began. Earl of Southampton, having apparent long-term vision for his estate, provided for successful future redevelopment with those grants, which allowed the estate to “pull down, replan, and rebuild” after leases fell (Olsen, 43). These establishments involved sophisticated town planning that surpassed all others in London at the time and successfully “transformed northern Bloomsbury into a restricted upper-middle-class suburb” (Olsen, 61). Francis Russell, the 5th Duke of Bedford, had significant influence on his estate and was responsible for much of its development. Before reconstruction, Covent Garden was the center of all of the Russell estates. The Duke, living in the West End and not interested in Bloomsbury, had the Bedford House demolished and replaced with Bedford Square, which led north to the large Russell Square, and served as the focal point of a new residential area. Originally, the Duke forbade the production of any buildings north of Great Russell Street out of fear of decreasing the desirability of Bedford House. His vision of having a spacious park-like area surrounded by terraces of homes is similar to John Nash’s for his Regent’s Park
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