Lost London – Field of the Forty Footsteps…

May 25, 2018

Located behind what was once Montague House (now the site of the British Museum) in Bloomsbury, this field – also referred to as the Brother’s Steps, so the story goes, was once the site of where two brothers both died after fighting a duel.

The more romantic version of the story has the two men – both soldiers in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 – fighting over a woman they were both in love with; another version said they had taken different sides in the conflict.

Either way, it was said that after the duel, no grass would ever grow on the 40 footsteps where they had trod (and, in the romantic version, no grass also grew on the tussock at the centre of the field where the woman had watched the tragedy unfold).

The field apparently became something of a tourist attraction during the 18th century – poet Robert Southey was among those known to have gone there (although he apparently counted 76 footprints). It was suggested by some wags that, rather than a supernatural explanation, no grass grew on the steps because of the number of people treading on them.

The story continued to attract public interest in the ensuing years with theatrical productions and newspaper articles and even a children’s book in the 1970s.

The exact site of the field remains a matter of conjecture – among sites suggested are a carpark behind Senate House to the west of Russell Square, Tavistock Square and Torrington Square.

PICTURE: Field posed by a model. (Elizabeth Lies/Unsplash).

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