St. George's Place,  Camberwell

9 St. George's Place, Camberwell, 1803-1806

Female Biography earned Hays enough money from her publisher, Richard Phillips, to move, with one servant, to 9 St. George’s Place, a new row of townhomes just to the south of Surrey Square near the intersection of Kent Road and the east end of Albany Road, the dividing line at that time between Camberwell (to the south) and Walworth (to the north). From the rear of her home Hays had a view of what is today Burgess Park, a large tract of open land that allowed Hays the long walks she would enjoy for many years at a series of residences in Islington, Wandsworth, Oundle, Bristol, Peckham, and Greenwich. Hays appears as “Mrs. Hays” in Holden’s London Directory for 1805, Private Residences (n.p.). She appears as “Mary Hays” in the Poor Rate Books, St. Giles Parish, Camberwell, 1802-04, and 1806 (GC/3/1/5-6, Southwark Local History Library, London, n.p.). During her time in Camberwell two other single women were her neighbors along the one-block row of townhomes at St. George’s Place. Hays disappears from the Rate Books by 1807, having moved to Islington.  

By 1805 there were two St. George's Places in Camberwell. I had previously thought that Hays's house was located in a row of townhomes along Camberwell Road between Southampton Street and Camberwell Green, directly across from the Rotunda Building, which became the site in 1807 of the Surrey Literary Institution (I stated this in my 2o21 article in Women's Writing, "'Room[s] of her own': Libraries and Residences in the Later Career of Mary Hays, 1814-1828"). Further examination of the route of the rate collector for the Poor Rate Books in Camberwell, however, puts Hays clearly at the location along Albany Road, not Camberwell Green (for the two locations, see the map below).

Her move to Camberwell was also motivated by family concerns.  A three-quarter-hour’s walk to the north through Southwark and Bermondsey brought Hays to her original family home in Gainsford Street, where her mother, Elizabeth Judge Hays (c. 1730-1812), and Mary’s younger sister, Elizabeth (c. 1765-1825), had primarily resided.  Hays was also in close proximity during her first year to the home of her eldest niece, Joanna Dunkin Palmer, at 42 Surrey Square, and  that of her eldest sister, Joanna Hays Dunkin, who lived till late in 1804 in a large home in Champion Hill, Camberwell. 

Many years later Hays would return to Camberwell to live with her brother at 11 Grosvenor Place, but as with St. George's Place, there were two streets of the same name in Camberwell by 1835 (see map below). A closer examination of the Poor Rate Books for that section of Camberwell will most likely reveal the correct location.