This Bloomsbury garden square, a pair with Tavistock Square located a short distance to the north-east, was developed in the 1820s with residences designed by master builder Thomas Cubitt and his company.

Its name comes from the family of the then land-owner, John Russell, the Duke of Bedford – Lady Georgina Gordon was the second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford (her father was Alexander Gordon, the fourth Duke of Gordon).

The square initially contained a private garden, designed by the 6th Duke of Bedford himself, which was reserved for residents. Now open to the public, the garden underwent a refurbishment, restoring the original railings, in the early 2000s and was reopened by Princess Anne in 2007.

Originally residential (although while it attracted some professionals and their families, it was never as popular as nearby Russell Square), the buildings on the square are now predominantly occupied by departments and institutes of the University of London. The university purchased the square, along with Woburn Square, in 1951.

On the west side of the square stands the university church, the Grade I-listed Church of Christ the King, which dates from the 1850s, while nearby is Dr Williams’s Library, founded in 1729 and moved here in 1890.

The square is generally considered the epicentre of the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and intellectuals with Virginia Woolf (then Stephens) among its residents. She lived at number 46 between 1904 and 1907, with her sister Vanessa, who, following her marriage to Clive Bell, continued to live there until 1917.

Another member of the Bloomsbury Group, economist John Maynard Keynes, lived in the house after that. Writer Lytton Strachey, another member of the group, lived at number 51 from 1909 to 1924.

Philosopher and essayist Bertrand Russell lived at number 57 between 1918-19.

PICTURES: Top – Gordon Square (Jay Bergesen/licensed under CC BY 2.0) Right – 46 Gordon Square (Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL)

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Located in Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury, this bronze bust of writer and literary pioneer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was erected in 2004.

Commissioned by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, it is a copy of a bust of Woolf sculpted by Stephen Tomlin in 1931 (there is a 1953 version of the work, apparently the only 3D representation of Woolf taken from life, in the National Portrait Gallery) and was set on a Portland stone plinth designed by Stephen Barkway.

A plate on the plinth explains that Woolf, a central figure in the Bloomsbury group of writers and artists, lived from 1924 to 1939 in a house which once stood on the south side of Tavistock Square, the period when her greatest novels were written.

It also features a quote from Woolf concerning the writing of her novel To the Lighthouse – “Then one day walking round Tavistock Square I made up, as I sometimes make up my books, To the Lighthouse; in a great, apparently involuntary, rush.”

There are, incidentally, plans to erect a new life-sized, seated statue of Woolf at Richmond on the bank of the River Thames. Woolf and her husband Leonard lived for a time the riverside borough at Hogarth House (where they also ran their publishing company).

Mock-ups have been created by artist Laury Dizengremel and there is a funding appeal to raise £50,000 currently underway.

PICTURE: Maureen Barlin (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The life of literary icon Virginia Woolf is being celebrated in a new exhibition which opens at the National Portrait Gallery today. Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision explores her life as novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure and features more than 100 works including portraits of Woolf by Bloomsbury Group contemporaries like her sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry as well as photographs by Beresford, Ray Man and Beck and McGregor who photographed the intellectual for Vogue. The display also includes works depicting her friends, family and literary peers and archival materials such as extracts from her personal diaries, books printed by Hogarth Press which she founded with husband Leonard Woolf and letters including one written to her sister shortly before her suicide in 1941. Runs until 26th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

The 52nd City of London Festival enters its final week today with numerous music, dance, spoken word and theatre events – many of them free – still on offer across the City. Events this week include a concert focusing on the history of the instrument known as the recorder and that of the office of Recorder of London (as St Sepulchre with Newgate tonight; tickets required), a showcase of musical talent from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (at St Stephen Walbrook at 1.05pm next Tuesday; free), and, the Cart Marking Ceremony, in which vehicles process into Guildhall Yard where they are marked with a red hot iron by the Master Carmen and Lord Mayor (next Wednesday at 10.30am, free). For the full program of events, see www.colf.org. This year’s festival also features the placement of “street guitars” at 12 locations across the Square Mile where you can turn up and have a strum – for locations, see www.colf.org/streetguitars.

A new gallery of items you might find in your own home has opened at the V&A. Gallery 74 now features items collected as a result of the museum’s “rapid response collecting” approach which sees them acquiring new objects relating to contemporary events and movements in architecture and design. Among the objects on display are a soft toy from IKEA, a pair of jeans from Primark (acquired soon after the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which 1129 workers were killed – the factory made clothes for a number of western brands including Primark), and the world’s first 3D printed gun, the Liberator, which was designed by Texas law student Cody Wilson. Entry is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

The largest garden square in Bloomsbury (and one of the largest in London), Russell Square was first laid out by Humphry Repton in 1806 and was located on what were the gardens of the home of the Dukes of Bedford, Bedford House.

Duke-of-BedfordIts name is that family name of the 5th Duke of Bedford, Francis Russell, who initially ordered the creation of the square and owned the land upon which it stands. The Russell family still hold the title today – the current duke, the 15th, is Andrew Russell – and still run the Bedford Estates upon which the square still stands.

The square was originally lined with grand terraced homes aimed at the upper middle class – the survivors, which can be found largely on the southern and western side of the square, are these days occupied by offices and the University of London. The eastern side of the square is these days dominated by the French Gothic Hotel Russell – designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, it was built in 1898.

Famous residents and inhabitants have included TS Eliot, who worked at a building in the square’s north-west corner when he was poetry editor at Faber & Faber, 19th century painter Sir Thomas Lawrence who had a studio at number 67, poet William Cowper, who lived at number 62 in the 1830s as a schoolboy, and George Williams, founder of the YMCA, who lived at number 13 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also appears in William Thackeray’s novel, Vanity Fair, and Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day.

The gardens were overhauled in 2002 in view of Repton’s original design and a new ornamental fountain installed in the middle. A cafe was also added.

Russell Square still houses one of London’s 13 extant Cabmen’s Shelters while monuments within the gardens include a small memorial to the 7th July, 2005, bombings – two of which occurred nearby – and a statue of the 5th Duke of Bedford, another which is the work of Sir Richard Westmacott and which was erected in 1807-08 (pictured).

Initially known as Southampton Square, Bloomsbury Square – located just to the east of the British Museum – was first developed in the mid-1660s, making it London’s oldest formal square.

Bloomsbury-SquareIt was the fourth Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley, who developed the square – his rather grand house, Southampton House, was located on the northern side of the square which initially featured gardens at the centre laid out in a cruciform pattern.

In 1723 – via the marriage of Southampton’s daughter, Lady Rachel Vaughan, to the ill-fated William, son of the 5th Earl of Bedford (he was implicated in the Rye House Plot and beheaded) – it passed to the Dukes of Bedford, becoming part of the Bedford Estates (and with it the earl’s house, later renamed Bedford House). The square took on its new name of Bloomsbury Square around this time.

Initially popular among the well-to-do, it had fallen somewhat from favour by the 19th century and with the 5th Duke preferring to live in the West End, in 1800 Bedford House was auctioned off and demolished. Terraced houses were later built along the now vacant north side of the square.

About 1806, the 5th Duke commissioned Humphry Repton to redesign the square and by the 1820s a garden including trees in the centre and a perimeter shrubbery. The gardens have gone through several makeovers since, including in the 1960s when an underground carpark was built underneath.

Most recently refurbished in 2006-2007 so they once again reflect Repton’s design, the gardens – which have been open to the public since 1950 – also contain a bronze statue of Whig politician (and friend of the Dukes of Bedford) Charles James Fox, which was designed by Sir Richard Westmacott and erected in 1816 (pictured, it was restored in 2006 to mark the bicentenary of Fox’s death).

It remained popular among middle class professionals, however, and among its most notable residents were the writer Isaac D’Israeli, father of the future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who lived at number six in the early 19th century (his son with him) while architect Sir Edwin Lutyens lived and worked at number 29 for more than 15 years after his marriage in 1897. Literary and artistic figures like Leonard and Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, who became part of what was known as the ‘Bloomsbury Group’, were also famously known to have lived in the area around the square.

Most of the houses in the square are now used as offices but among the notable buildings there are the former home of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (based in a building partly credited to architect John Nash) and, dating from 1930, Victoria House.

One of the more famous events to have taken place in the square occurred in 1780 during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots when rioters burned down the house of the Lord Chief Justice. Almost 100 years earlier, in 1694, the square was site of a deadly fencing duel between Scottish financier John Law and Edward Wilson. Law killed Wilson, was subsequently convicted of his murder and sentenced to death but escaped by fleeing to the continent. He later become the founder of the Mississippi Company.

Famous for its literary, intellectual and artistic heritage, Bloomsbury covers an area in central London which lies between Holborn and Euston Road.

The area, which became a fashionable residential district in the 17th and 18th centuries, derives its name from an earlier era and is named after William de Blemund (‘Blemundsbury’ means the manor of Blemund), who acquired land there in 1201.

It was later owned by the Earl of Southampton, who had begun developing the area in the 1660s – a task which was continued when the land passed, through the marriage of his daughter, into the hands of the Dukes of Bedford. Successive dukes were then involved – to varying degrees – in the development of series of residential squares and streets which eventually included the likes of Bedford, Russell and, of course, Bloomsbury Squares.

In the early 20th century, the area become home to what is known as the Bloomsbury Group – its members included the writers Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and EM Forster. These days the area is noted for being home to the British Museum (first opened to the public in 1759) and the University of London.