Upcoming Events

A Harpy and His Brothers: The Wildmans in Bedford Square and Newstead Abbey


  • 30 May to 15 September 2023
  • Paul Mellon Centre

This Drawing Room Display shows some of the ways that the architectural and cultural histories of Bedford Square and Newstead Abbey have been addressed in the past, and the ways in which those stories might be revised and complicated. The inclusion of the film project Blood Sugar, developed by volunteers at Newstead Abbey, offers further perspectives on these historical stories.

Bedford Square has always been esteemed as one of London’s most prestigious addresses. Built in 1775–1782, it is widely considered to be the finest surviving example in London of a Georgian town square, embodying in its orderly architecture appearance the favoured self-image of the British social elite.

This display explores the history and reputation of Bedford Square by focusing on two brothers who were among its first inhabitants: the successful lawyer Thomas Wildman (1740–1795) and his younger brother James Wildman (1747–1816). Together with a third brother, the merchant Henry Wildman (1746–1816), they made a fortune through their connections with the fabulously wealthy William Beckford, managing his legal affairs and his extensive plantations in the West Indies. Thomas Wildman’s wealth allowed his son, also Thomas (1787–1859), to purchase Newstead Abbey, a historic property in Nottinghamshire previously owned by the poet Lord Byron.

Display Pamphlet

A web accessible version of this booklet can be downloaded below.