Herbrand Street estate in Bloomsbury opened in February 1885 and was originally known as the Little Coram Street Estate. It was built on land which previously belonged to the Foundling Hospital, a charity which cared for abandoned babies and orphaned children.
At the start of the 19th century several streets of houses stood on this land, and they were let by a Mr J Burton on 96-year leases. However, the ground floors of the houses were several feet below pavement level, and by 1876 the Medical Officer of Health was concerned about their unhealthy condition.
For this reason, the Metropolitan Board of Works used compulsory purchase powers to buy the houses. The site was then sold to Peabody to build a new estate. We built four pairs of blocks with 205 homes and a total of 450 rooms round a central courtyard. Some homes consisted of a single room, and before 1900 the average wage of tenants in these single rooms was less than £1 per week.
Early records show that in the 1880s most tenants worked within walking distance of their homes. Several residents from the estate were emploted by the department stores on Tottenham Court Road, the British Museum, Crosse and Blackwell's in Soho Square and the Meux Brewery.
In 1935, the residents held a celebration to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V.