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HISTORY OF THE ARRAN HOUSE HOTEL (77 & 79 GOWER STREET)



GOWER STREET takes its name from Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower, whose husband was the 4th Duke of Bedford. Lady Gertrude supervised the development of this section of her husband's estate when Gower Street was abuilding in the 1790s. Until the present numbering was adopted in the 1860's, No.77 Gower Street was No. 48 and No.79 was No.47.

The first occupant of No.77, here by 1792, was William Blewart, a prosperous East India merchant. This was an era when the world anticipated making a financial killing in Asia - from the Court of Directors of the East India Company sitting in their ornate offices in Leadenhall Street, to the company's network of military and civil servants out East. One might add to this every member of the army [regardless of rank] the numerous independent merchants living in the three British Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay - and the whole array of native Indian rulers ranging from Moslem sultans to Hindu rajas. By 1806 No.77 has passed to the musician, Robert Cooke [1768-1814]. In 1793 Cooke became organist of the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which still stands at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. In 1806 he was appointed master of Westminster Abbey choir. He held this post until 1814 when in a fit of insanity he drowned himself in the River Thames.

By 1823 Cooke's former home had passed to Robert Langford, an attorney-at-law who specialised in cases before the Court of Chancery, the most protracted of the three divisions of the High Court of Justice. Cases here took so long to resolve that the phrase 'to get a man's head into Chancery' became a popular Victorian saying and meant that once a person was so situated the lawyers 'might pummel him as much and long as they choose'. Dickens alluded to the exhausting nature of Chancery proceedings in Bleak House, citing the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, based on a true dispute which lasted eight years. By 1843 No.77 had been acquired by the sculptor, Edward William Wyon [1811-1885] who in 1863 made a bronze statue of Richard Green, the shipowner and philanthropist, which is now at Kenswick Manor, Worcestershire. In 1869 Wyon was commissioned to carve the statues of Galileo and Goethe for the Civil Service Commission building in London's Burlington Gardens. When the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Drapers was rebuilt in 1866, Wyon was employed to carry out all the decorative carving. His portrait bust of Rober Napier [1867] is now in the Glasgow Art Gallery and his wax portraits of William Worsdworth and Robert Southey, both executed in 1835, are in the National Portrait Gallery.

By the taking of the census, No.77 has passed into use as a dentist's surgery and consulting rooms with William Robert Storey. In 1861 it was occupied by Wiliam Pitman King 66 and his wife, Dinah 65. In King's income derived from landed property. This was a traditional and respectable source of revenue for middle-class gentlemen. Mr. King would almost certainly have put the regulation of his property portfolio in the hands of a solicitor. In consequence it is unlikely that he would have known the exact details of it. [In The Barchester Chronicles, for example, Mr Harding's teetotal daughter owned a public house without having any knowledge of the fact.]

William King sold No.77 Gower Street before 1866 to a Miss Lyons, who in turn sold it to the architect, Isaac Clarke, who lived here until his death, aged 87 in 1887.

The next owner was George Purkess who was the senior partner in the firm of Purkess & Co., a firm of stationers and small-time publishers with offices at Nos.59-60 Dean Street, Soho. The firm of Purkess and Co in Dean street was started by his father George senior, but by the time George jnr had bought 77 Gower street that business had long been in the hands of other members of the Purkess family. George was indeed a newspaper proprietor as he claimed in the 1891 census: from 1864 he owned and ran the immensely popular Illustrated Police News. He died in 1892.

Purkess sold No.77 in 1896 to a Jewish stockbroker, Moses Harris. By 1907 it had become a lodging-house run by Franz Zugbaum. The lodging-house user was continued under the next owner, Connie Murray, who sold the business circa 1931 to Claude Cohen. Post war the dwelling was acquired from its then owner, William Osborne Jenkins, by his neighbour and fellow lodging-house keeper at No.79, Miss Anne Reavely, who shortly afterwards amalgamated the two. The name Arran House hotel first appears in the London Post Office Directories in 1958. As Miss Reavely was Scottish, it may be named after the island and holiday resort in Buteshire.

No.79 Gower Street - originally No.47 - was first occupied in the 1790s by Egerton Bridges, a gentleman of independent means. By 1796 it was held by William Dixon, a captain in the Royal Navy, who lost his life at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. His widow was still residing here in 1834. By 1835 the house was in the occupation of the physician, George Gregory [1790-1853] who served as assistant-surgeon in Sicily and at the capture of Genoa during the Napolenic wars. At the close of the war he retired on half-pay and commenced practise in London. He was physician to the Small-pox and Vaccination Hospital from 1824, and to the General Dispensary. When he left Gower Street for Camden Square circa 1844 his former home was acquired by John Wilson of whom nothing is known other than that he sold on before 1861 to Barnett Boam. A British subject born at Amsterdam, where his father was in the diamond trade, Barnett Boam became a jeweller, like his father. In 1861, aged 57, he was sharing No.79 with his wife, Frances 51, and with their five children. The live-in domestic staff consisted of two housemaids: Sarah Ryan 20 and Kate Stuart 21.

Records for 1871 show No.79 in use as a lodging-house under the proprietorship of James Turner 36, a native of Straffordshire. Turner's guests in the April of that year were truly cosmopolitan: a 25-year-old publisher from Mexico, Lorenzo Caballos, a Uruguayan student, Rodolfo de Arteuga 20, a Paris-born student named Gaston Crelat 22, a Scottish commercial traveller called John Forbes 31 and another commercial traveller named Frederick Simpson 28, from Halifax in Yorkshire.

By 1881 No.79 Gower Street had become a 'College Home' for students of Bedford College, which had been founded in 1849 in Regent's Park by Mrs Elizabeth Jesser Reid to provide young woman with a liberal education. In 1881 the College Home at No.79 was being run by a Miss Eliza Townsend 48, who lived on the premises with one of the College's history teachers, Miss Mary Sarah Bush 39 and four students. The resident domestic staff consisted of a cook, and two housemaids. The dwelling returned to single family occupation circa 1888 - the year Jack the Ripper was stalking the fog-bound streets of Whitechapel to the east - with Joseph Morris Flatau who worked as a commercial traveller for a firm of silversmiths. At the turn of the century it returned to use as a lodging-house. In 1914 the proprietor was Jay Mack and in 1919 a Mrs Thorpe. In 1937 the owner was Miss Anne Reavely who, as we have seen, amalgamated the property with No.77.



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