Shelley and other notable people of Nelson Square

A few famous people have been connected to Nelson Square. One has even been given a blue plaque, and later a Historic Southwark plaque, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

He is known to have lived in 26, Nelson Square for three months in 1814-15 as a lodger.

The scan from a booklet held by Southwark Local History Library (below, click for larger images to read) reveals Nelson Square was chosen for a place for the Shelley plaque in London, as it could be established with some certainty he had lodged in Number 26.

Number 26 was in the north-eastern corner of the Square, in the part where the Music Box building now stands. It survived the bombings of WW II, but was eventually demolished along with the rest of the old building stock in the early 1950. In an article in the South London Press it is mentioned the blue plaque would form the cornerstone of the new apartment block, now known as Applegarth House. There is however no visible evidence of the old blue plaque from 1932 to be seen today.

London Metropolitan Archives (City of London) holds two photographs of 26, Nelson Square with the blue plaque attached to the wall.


The blue plaque that used to be on the wall of 26, Nelson Square
The blue plaque that used to be on the wall of 26, Nelson Square

A new plaque has since been attached to Applegarth House, in a series of noting marked locations in Southwark. It’s entitled “Historic Southwark”.

The current plaque on Applegarth House wall
The current plaque on Applegarth House wall

Thomas Barnes, a journalist and editor of The Times newspaper from 1817 until his death in 1841.  He lived in 49 Nelson Square (south side) between 1819 and 1834.

The Times, 1 Jan 1935 (press clipping in Southwark Local Studies Libarary)
The Times, 1 Jan 1935 (press clipping in Southwark Local Studies Libarary)

Another notable person connected to Nelson Square was the son of Lord Halifax, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, who represented his father in the ceremony in 1904, when the Square was opened up as a public square.

He was later styled Lord Irwin and Viscount of Halifax and was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians in the 1930s.

Also  a former resident of the Square was the inventor of vertical printing presses Augustus Applegarth, who in 1818 had his address in Nelson Square. One of the current blocks in the Square is named after him.

It can also be noted that Charles Dickens will have walked past the square many times, as can be deduced from his comments on the Dog and Pot sign in the corner of Union Street and Blackfriars Road. The ironmongers whose sign it was, could be said to be part of Nelson Square, as the buildings in the surrounding streets backed onto the houses on the Square and were built in the same era.

Plaque with a Charles Dickens quote
Plaque with a Charles Dickens quote

The preacher Rowland Hill was also a notable person in the immediate vicinity, his Surrey Chapel (later know as The Ring) is said to have been the birthplace of the Sunday school movement. He has also given the name for the first post-war block to be built in Nelson Square, Rowland Hill House. The above linked Wikipedia page even suggests that the famous instigator of the Penny Post of the same name would have been named after the Surrey Chapel preacher!

Added in January 2017: a personal history of two Nelson Square residents Thomas and Lydia Farley kindly submitted by Catherine Mackenzie in Australia


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