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Bleak House

Bleak House
Plaque no. 46
Date of plaque unveiling
5 May 2000
The plaque is mounted on a rock in front of the school.
Dan Brock
440 Princess Avenue, London, Ontario (northwest corner of Maitland and Princess streets; present site of Lord Roberts Public School)

Bleak House was demolished in 1914 and Lord Roberts Public School welcomed its first students on September 5, 1916.

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The Bleak House property remained in the Macbeth family until the London Board of Education purchased it in 1914 to make way for the Lord Roberts Public School, which opened in 1915.

Bleak House was built around 1851.  George Macbeth, who named it, was born in 1825 to Scottish crofters evicted in the Highland clearances who had emigrated in 1813 to Lord Selkirk’s Red River Settlement.  The family moved to Dunwich Township, Upper Canada, in 1838. The next year, George went to work for Colonel Thomas Talbot.

Talbot was then aged and lonely.  After serving in the British army as private secretary to John Graves Simcoe, Talbot was granted land in Dunwich and Aldborough Townships in 1801.  He administered land settlement in much of what is now Middlesex, Elgin, Kent, Norfolk, and Essex counties.

George Macbeth became Talbot’s servant, business manager, and companion, travelling twice with him to England and Europe.  In 1847, Talbot’s nephew, Richard Airey, emigrated with his family to manage Talbot’s properties.  Talbot gave half his estate to Airey, and willed most of the remainder to the faithful Macbeth, who moved to London in 1852.

George and his wife, Anne Gilbert Saunders, rented a fine home on Princess Street, naming it Bleak House in honour of the Charles Dickens novel. It may have been there that Talbot died, at the age of 81, in 1853. Macbeth ran successfully for the Conservatives in 1854, 1857 and 1861 in the riding of West Elgin.  Unseated in 1863 for political corruption, he was next elected in 1867 and 1869 as alderman for Ward 6 in the City of London.

George died on June 3, 1870 and was buried near his father and Colonel Talbot in Tyrconnell Cemetery near Port Talbot.