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142 Holborn Bars, London.jpg
Holborn Bars, built 1879–1901, headquarters of Prudential Assurance, at 138–142 Holborn
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Location within Greater London
Population13,023 (2011 Census. Holborn and Covent Garden Ward) [1]
OS grid reference TQ305815
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district WC1, WC2
Postcode district EC1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°31′02″N0°07′06″W / 51.5172°N 0.1182°W / 51.5172; -0.1182 Coordinates: 51°31′02″N0°07′06″W / 51.5172°N 0.1182°W / 51.5172; -0.1182

Holborn ( /ˈhbən/ HOH-bə(r)n or /ˈhɒlbərn/ [a] ) is a district in the London boroughs of Camden and City of Westminster and a locality in the ward of Farringdon Without in the City of London. The area is sometimes described as part of the West End of London. [2]




The area's first known mention occurs in a charter of Westminster Abbey, by King Edgar, dated to 959. This mentions "the old wooden church of St Andrew" (St Andrew, Holborn). [3] The name "Holborn" may derive from the Middle English hol for "hollow", and bourne, a "brook", referring to the River Fleet as it ran through a steep valley to the east. [3] [4] Historical cartographer William Shepherd in his Plan of London about 1300 labels the Fleet as "Hole Bourn" where it passes to the east of St Andrew's church. [5] However, the 16th-century historian John Stow attributes the name to the Old Bourne ("old brook"), a small stream which he believed ran into the Fleet at Holborn Bridge, a structure lost when the river was culverted in 1732. The exact course of the stream is uncertain, but according to Stow it started in one of the many small springs near Holborn Bar, the old City toll gate on the summit of Holborn Hill. [4] [6] This is supported by a map of London and Westminster drawn up during the reign of Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547) that clearly marks the street as 'Oldbourne' and 'High Oldbourne'. [7] [ failed verification ] Other historians, however, find the theory implausible, in view of the slope of the land. [8]

Local governance

A map showing the wards of Holborn Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1952 Holborn Met. B Ward Map 1952.svg
A map showing the wards of Holborn Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1952

It was then outside the City's jurisdiction and a part of Ossulstone Hundred in Middlesex. In the 12th century St Andrew's was noted in local title deeds as lying on "Holburnestrate"—Holborn Street. [9] The original Bars were the boundary of the City of London from 1223, when the City's jurisdiction was extended beyond the Walls, at Newgate, into the suburb here, as far as the point where the Bars were erected, until 1994 when the boundary moved to the junction of Chancery Lane. In 1394 the Ward of Farringdon Without was created, but only the south side of Holborn was under its jurisdiction with some minor properties, such as parts of Furnival's Inn, on the northern side, "above Bars". The rest of the area "below Bars" (outside the City's jurisdiction) was organised by the vestry board of the parish of St Andrew. [10] The St George the Martyr Queen Square area became a separate parish in 1723 and was combined with the part of St Andrew outside the City of London in 1767 to form St Andrew Holborn Above the Bars with St George the Martyr.

The Holborn District was created in 1855, consisting of the civil parishes and extra-parochial places of Glasshouse Yard, Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, Ely Rents and Ely Place, St Andrew Holborn Above the Bars with St George the Martyr and St Sepulchre. The Metropolitan Borough of Holborn was created in 1900, consisting of the former area of the Holborn District and the St Giles District, excluding Glasshouse Yard and St Sepulchre, which went to the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury. The Metropolitan Borough of Holborn was abolished in 1965 and its area now forms part of the London Borough of Camden.

Local politicians include:

Holborn is represented in the London Assembly as part of Barnet and Camden by Andrew Dismore, of the Labour Party.

Urban development

"Old Holborn": Staple Inn in 1900 Staple Inn ca 1900.jpg
"Old Holborn": Staple Inn in 1900

Henry VII paid for the road to be paved in 1494 because the thoroughfare "was so deep and miry that many perils and hazards were thereby occasioned, as well to the king's carriages passing that way, as to those of his subjects". Criminals from the Tower and Newgate passed up Holborn on their way to be hanged at Tyburn or St Giles. [11]

In the 18th century, Holborn was the location of the infamous Mother Clap's molly house (meeting place for homosexual men). There were 22 inns or taverns recorded in the 1860s. The Holborn Empire, originally Weston's Music Hall, stood between 1857 and 1960, when it was pulled down after structural damage sustained in the Blitz. The theatre premièred one of the first full-length feature films in 1914, The World, the Flesh and the Devil , a 50-minute melodrama filmed in Kinemacolor. [12] [13]

Charles Dickens took up residence in Furnival's Inn (later the site of "Holborn Bars", the former Prudential building designed by Alfred Waterhouse). Dickens put his character "Pip", in Great Expectations , in residence at Barnard's Inn opposite, now occupied by Gresham College. [14] Staple Inn, notable as the promotional image for Old Holborn tobacco, [15] is nearby. The three of these were Inns of Chancery. The most northerly of the Inns of Court, Gray's Inn, is off Holborn, as is Lincoln's Inn: the area has been associated with the legal professions since mediaeval times, and the name of the local militia (now Territorial Army unit, the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry) still reflects that. Subsequently, the area diversified and become recognisable as the modern street. A plaque stands at number 120 commemorating Thomas Earnshaw's invention of the Marine chronometer, which facilitated long-distance travel. At the corner of Hatton Garden was the old family department store of Gamages. Until 1992, the London Weather Centre was located in the street. The Prudential insurance company relocated in 2002. The Daily Mirror offices used to be directly opposite it, but the site is now occupied by Sainsbury's head office.

Modern times

A view of Holborn in 1984. London High Holborn geograph-3083817-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
A view of Holborn in 1984.

Further east, in the gated avenue of Ely Place, is St Etheldreda's Church, originally the chapel of the Bishop of Ely's London palace. This ecclesiastical connection allowed the street to remain part of the county of Cambridgeshire until the mid-1930s. This meant that Ye Olde Mitre, a pub located in a court hidden behind the buildings of the Place and the Garden, was licensed by the Cambridgeshire Magistrates. [16] [17] St Etheldreda's is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Britain, and one of two extant buildings in London dating back to the era of Edward I. [18] [19] [20]

Hatton Garden, the centre of the diamond trade, was leased to a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Christopher Hatton, at the insistence of the Queen to provide him with an income. Behind the Prudential Building lies the Anglo-Catholic church of St Alban the Martyr. [21] Originally built in 1863 by architect William Butterfield, it was gutted during the Blitz but later reconstructed, retaining Butterfield's west front. The current[ when? ] vicar is Rev. Christopher Smith. [21]

On Holborn Circus lies the Church of St Andrew, an ancient Guild Church that survived the Great Fire of London. However, the parochial authority decided to commission Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild it. Although the nave was destroyed in the Blitz, the reconstruction was faithful to Wren's original. Just to the west of the circus, but originally sited in the middle, is a large equestrian statue of Prince Albert by Charles Bacon, erected in 1874 as the City's official monument to him. It was presented by Charles Oppenheim, of the diamond trading company De Beers, whose headquarters is in nearby Charterhouse Street.

Former Pearl Assurance building Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel1.jpg
Former Pearl Assurance building

In the early 21st century, Holborn has become the site of new offices and hotels. For example, the old neoclassical Pearl Assurance building near the junction with Kingsway was converted into a hotel in 1999.

There has been a limited attempt to rebrand Holborn (and perhaps other nearby areas such as Bloomsbury) as "Midtown", on the grounds that it is notionally in the very middle of London, between the West End and the City (often considered, such as for postcode purposes, to be on the east side of central London). [22]



Nearby areas


The nearest London Underground stations are Chancery Lane and Holborn. The closest mainline railway station is City Thameslink.

Holborn is served by bus routes 1, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 59, 68, 76, 91, 98, 168, 171, 188, 243, 341, 521, X68 and night routes N1, N8, N19, N38, N41, N55, N68 and N171.

Notable people

The following is a list of notable people who were born in or are significantly connected with Holborn.

See also


Related Research Articles

Bloomsbury area of the London Borough of Camden, in London, England, UK

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London. It is considered a fashionable residential area, and is the location of numerous cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions. It is bounded by Fitzrovia to the west, Covent Garden to the south, St. Pancras to the north, and Clerkenwell to the east.

Chancery Lane tube station London Underground station

Chancery Lane is a London Underground station in between Holborn and the City in central London, England and is in the London Borough of Camden and the City of London. It opened in 1900 and takes its name from the nearby Chancery Lane.

Metropolitan Borough of Holborn metropolitan borough of England

The Metropolitan Borough of Holborn was a metropolitan borough in the County of London between 1900 and 1965, when it was amalgamated with the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras and the Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead to form the London Borough of Camden.

Hatton Garden Street and area in Holborn, Camden, north London

Hatton Garden is a street and commercial area in the Holborn district of the London Borough of Camden, close to the boundary with the City of London. It takes its name from Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who established a mansion here and gained possession of the garden and orchard of Ely Place, the London seat of the Bishops of Ely. It remained in the Hatton family and was built up as a stylish residential development in the reign of King Charles II.

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Staple Inn Tudor building on High Holborn, London, UK, which is the last surviving Inn of Chancery

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St Etheldredas Church Church in London

St Etheldreda's Church is a Roman Catholic church in Ely Place, off Charterhouse Street in Holborn, London. The building is one of only two surviving in London from the reign of Edward I, and dates from between 1250-1290. It is dedicated to Æthelthryth, or Etheldreda, the Anglo-Saxon saint who founded the monastery at Ely in 673. It was the chapel of the London residence of the Bishops of Ely.

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St Giles, London district in London, at the southern tip of the Borough of Camden

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Holborn District (Metropolis)

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St George the Martyr, Holborn Church in London

St George the Martyr Holborn is an Anglican church located at the south end of Queen Square, Holborn, in the London Borough of Camden. It is dedicated to Saint George, and was originally so-called to distinguish it from the later nearby church of St. George's Bloomsbury, with which it shared a burial ground. While the historical name remains its formal designation, it is today known simply as St George's Holborn.

Holborn and Covent Garden is a ward of the London borough of Camden, in the United Kingdom. As the name suggests, it covers the parts of Holborn and Covent Garden that lie in Camden; the eastern part of Holborn lies in the City of London and the southern part of Covent Garden lies in the City of Westminster. For elections to Parliament, Holborn and Covent Garden is part of Holborn and St Pancras.

London Borough of Camden Borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Camden is a borough in Northwest London; it forms part of Inner London. Historically in Middlesex, some southern areas of the borough, such as Holborn, are sometimes described as part of the West End of London. The local authority is Camden London Borough Council.

St Andrew Holborn was an ancient English parish that until 1767 was partly in the City of London and mainly in the county of Middlesex. Its City, thus southern, part retained its former name or was sometimes officially referred to as St Andrew Holborn Below the Bars.

Coat of arms of the London Borough of Camden

The coat of arms of the London Borough of Camden is the official heraldic arms of the London Borough of Camden. The arms were granted on 10 September 1965. The borough was formed by the merger of three former boroughs, the Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead, the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn and the Metropolitan Borough of St. Pancras, and symbols from their old coats of arms were taken over to the new borough arms.

Holborn Bars

Holborn Bars, also known as the Prudential Assurance Building is a large red terracotta Victorian building on the north side (138–142) of Holborn in Camden at the boundary of the City of London, England. The block is bounded by Holborn to the south, Brooke Street to the west, Leather Lane to the east and Beauchamp Street to the north. It is currently occupied by De Vere Venues and also the London office of English Heritage at 1 Waterhouse Square.


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  2. https://www3.camden.gov.uk/westendproject/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Project-Overview-for-website-1.pdf LBC website describing improvements in a part of the borough they refer to as 'West End'
  3. 1 2 Lethaby, William (1902). London before the conquest. London: Macmillan. p.  60.
  4. 1 2 Besant, Walter; Mitton, Geraldine (1903). Holborn and Bloomsbury. The Fascination of London (Project Gutenberg, 2007 ed.). London: Adam and Charles Black . Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  5. Shepherd, William R (1926). Historical atlas (3 ed.). University of London. p. 75. OCLC   253088196.
  6. Strype, John (1720). "Rivers and other Waters serving this City". Survey of London. The Stuart London Project. Online edition: University of Sheffield 2007.
  7. "เว็บถ่ายทอดสดออนไลน์คาสิโน – รับข่าวสารข้อมูลที่ชวนรู้ทุกที่". www.oldlondonmaps.com.
  8. Lethaby (1902:48)
  9. Harben, Henry (1918). A Dictionary of London. London: Herbert Jenkins.
  10. The Parish of St Andrew Holborn pp. 11–12 Caroline Barron London 1979
  11. Timbs, John (1855). Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of Interest in the Metropolis. D. Bogue. p. 428.
  12. The World, the Flesh and the Devil on IMDb
  13. The full-length documentary With Our King and Queen Through India , also in Kinemacolor, premièred in February 1912, and the stencil-coloured The Miracle opened at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in December 1912.
  14. Chap. 20
  15. Hibbert, Christopher; et al. (1983). The London Encyclopedia (2010 ed.). London: MacMillan. p. 397. ISBN   1-4050-4925-1.
  16. Vitaliev, Vitali (3 January 2003). "Things that go bump on the map". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 12 August 2008.
  17. Hammond, Derek (28 June 2006). "Secret London: Ye Olde Mitre Tavern". Time Out . Archived from the original on 26 July 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2008.
  18. "History of the Church". stetheldreda.com. It is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I.
  19. Sarah Kettler; Carole Trimble (2001). The Amateur Historian's Guide to Medieval and Tudor London, 1066–1600. Capital Books. p. 103. ISBN   978-1-892123-32-9. This is Britain's oldest Roman Catholic church, dating from the 13th century.
  20. Andrew Davies (1988). Literary London. Pan Macmillan. p. 112. ISBN   978-0-333-45708-5. In 1874 when the church was bought back by the Roman Catholics it was found to be full of 'inconceivable filth, living and dead'. St Etheldreda's is the oldest Catholic church building in Britain.
  21. 1 2 St Alban the Martyr accessed 14 December 2013
  22. Colvile, Robert (27 June 2012). "A Midtown in London? There's NoHo chance" via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  23. Olausson, Lena (2006). "Holborn". Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation, The Essential Handbook of the Spoken Word (3rd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 173. ISBN   0-19-280710-2.
  24. "Pronouncing British Placenames". BBC. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2009.
  25. Dretzke, Burkhard (2008). Modern British and American English pronunciation. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schöningh. p.  63. ISBN   3-8252-2053-2.
  26. Roberts, Andrew; Matthew Teller (2004). The Rough Guide to Britain. London: Rough Guides Ltd. p. 109. ISBN   1-84353-301-4.