Chalcot Square received its present name only in 1937 when the London County Council, perhaps mindful of the threat of war, set about reducing the confusing duplications in London’s street names. The new name was taken from a farm (also popularly known as Chalk Farm) that had formed part of the huge Southampton Estate, sold for development in the early 1840s.
The building of St George’s Square, as it used to be known, seems to have got off to a tentative start, since the four houses (nos. 8-11) which appear on a parish map of 1849 were not followed until 1857, and then only by groups of a few houses at a time as resources permitted, hence various confusing re-numberings. However, their external appearance remained consistent until the final batch on the north side (nos. 34-39) was added after 1871 when the pleasure grounds of the old Chalcot Farm Tavern (now the Lemonia Restaurant) had become available for development; their neo-Gothic features chime with the contemporary shops in Regent’s Park Road rather than with the rest of the square. Its original layout, complete with the ornamental bedding in the square, is shown in the 1870 Ordnance Survey map reproduced on the left. (Although the plots of nos. 34-39 are shown, the houses themselves had not yet been occupied).
No doubt the original developers hoped their houses would attract well-to-do middle-class families including a brood of children and a minimum of two servants, like the larger houses in Regent’s Park Road with an outlook on Primrose Hill. Some did, but others soon became boarding-houses consisting of rooms and apartments looked after by a landlady (often widowed). To judge by the twice-yearly rate books, quite a few stood empty for considerable periods. None of the houses had their own stables, let alone coach-houses, but livery stables were available close by in Eglon Mews and the mews behind Sharpleshall Street among others.
Among the residents of the square in its early days (“respectable rather than famous”, in the words of the Camden History Society’s Primrose Hill to Euston Road), were two members of the Dalziel family of engravers and illustrators (at nos 1 and 8). In 1872 Davison Dalziel was succeeded at No. 1, (which was large enough to accommodate a consulting room and surgery), by Dr Charles Read, who remained there for the rest of the century. Also on the west side of the square (at no. 3, which bears a blue plaque for Sylvia Plath) was Frederick J Furnivall, notionally a barrister, but in practice an insatiable founder of literary societies and the enthusiastic patron of a rowing club for young ladies. Another scholar, though of a more retiring character, was Theodore Goldstücker, an early refugee from Prussian anti-semitism who found a home as London University’s first professor of Sanskrit; he lived at no. 18 (then no. 14), unmarried but cared for by a married couple. Back on the west side of the square, (more desirable because of its front gardens) at no. 7 lived John Payne “who for 31 years was the officer in charge of Her Majesty’s Indian mails” according to his Times obituary in 1893. No. 36 (“Turner House”) was originally an annexe to the boy’s home in Regent’s Park Road; later, after a period when it housed one of the neighbourhood’s earliest motor-car workshops, it reverted to charitable uses and became until 1950 a hostel for blind women cared for by the Church Army.
With our thanks to Jeremy Noble and the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre for their invaluable help with this research.
Further information can be obtained from the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre