New Book | Nicholas Barbon: Developing London, 1667–1698

Posted in books by Editor on December 16, 2022

From the London Topographical Society:

Frank Kelsall and Timothy Walker, Nicholas Barbon: Developing London, 1667–1698 (London: London Topographical Society, 2022), 240 pages, £35.

London grew rapidly in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and Nicholas Barbon (c.1640–1698) was central to its physical transformation. This first complete biography analyses how Barbon’s property development was closely connected to financial innovations. As a young doctor during the Plague year of 1665 Nicholas Barbon stayed in London to help victims, but thereafter his attention turned to building, to finance, and to economics. His first developments were in the City after the Great Fire. He then took advantage of the westward move of aristocratic houses to lay out streets in what had been their grounds, before building in the Temple, moving to sites in Soho and Westminster, eastwards beyond the City walls and north to Holborn. His development of Red Lion Fields (to the fury of neighbouring lawyers in Gray’s Inn) and Lamb’s Conduit Fields is discussed in detail, revealing the sophisticated—some might say ruthless—methods he used to raise funding. His speculative activity created rows of terrace houses and squares that became the norm for the city’s future development. At the same time he set up the first fire insurance company, the second bank, became an MP, and published on economic matters such as free trade and recoinage. He was in the parlance of the day a ‘projector’, and his story reveals a great deal about the way London, and Britain as a whole, was changing topographically, politically and socially in these crucial years.

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