James Burton – Bloomsbury Property Developer, 1761-1837
I am a builder from a Northern land
who sketched these fine streets it’s your privilege
to walk; see how my mighty works still stand.
T’was I breathed life into stucco and frieze,
conjured terrace, pilaster, pediment
and crown, Tuscan, Doric, Ionic and
Corinthian. At each turn on this Foundling
land you will see true aspect and prospect,
see my touch, my hand.
From Bedford Square to busy New Road,
to Nash’s fine Regent’s Park terraces,
behold Russell Square and Repton’s deft work!
Tavistock House (my former demesne) and
The Holme, “the definition of Western
civilisation in a view” it seems:
My Palladian principles writ large,
neoclassic symmetry, scale, balance,
(I’m nothing if not a Renaissance man).
Two hundred and fifty London acres
under three thousand of my properties;
a million bricks, ten thousand tons of pug,
laid by countless nimble, calloused hands with
busy trowels and the flick of the wrist.
I set the stage for Whigs and writers,
the Woolfs and Forsters, the Frys and Stracheys,
who stalked these pavements with Prufrock’s pale ghost –
you’re never alone on these streets of Bloomsbury.
The song of the stone lulls me to sleep.
And I dream a chorus of hammers and plumbs
and bricks and mortar, echoing yards and
the calls of the scaffolders and brickies.
Decipher this palimpsest of squares and
streets and mews, keep your eyes on the prize:
Blemondisberi is still my manor,
These streets are still the beating heart that fed –
My name is Burton, King of Architects;
look on my works, ye Mighty, and rejoice!