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Bloomsbury Area Guide

Bloomsbury Area Guide

Author: Julie, 21/07/2016

Bloomsbury is an area of the London Borough of Camden, in central London, between Euston Road and Holborn, developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area. It is notable for its array of garden squares, literary connections (exemplified by the Bloomsbury Group), and numerous cultural, educational and health-care institutions. Bloomsbury was not the first area of London to have acquired a formal square, Bloomsbury Square laid out in 1660 by Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, as Southampton Square was the first square to be named as such.

Bloomsbury is home to the University of London’s central bodies and departments, including the Senate House Library and School of Advanced Study, and to several of its colleges, including University College London, the Institute of Education (IOE), Birkbeck, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the School of Oriental and African Studies. It is also home to the New College of the Humanities. The numerous health-care institutions located in Bloomsbury include the British Medical Association, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University College Hospital and the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. The British Museum and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art are also located in the area. The fields to the north reach as far as Hampstead.

The earliest record of what would become Bloomsbury is in the 1086 Domesday Book, which states that the area had vineyards and “wood for 100 pigs”. But it is not until 1201 that the name Bloomsbury is first noted when William de Blemond, a Norman landowner, acquired the land. The name Bloomsbury is a development from Blemondisberi – the bury, or manor, of Blemond. At the end of the 14th century, Edward III acquired Blemond’s manor, and passed it on to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse, who kept the area mostly rural. In the 16th century with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII took the land back into the possession of the Crown and granted it to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton.

In the early 1660s, the Earl of Southampton constructed what eventually became Bloomsbury Square. The Yorkshire Grey public house on the corner of Gray’s Inn Road and Theobald’s Road dates from 1676. The area was laid out mainly in the 18th century, largely by landowners such as Wriothesley Russell, 3rd Duke of Bedford, who built Bloomsbury Market, which opened in 1730. The major development of the squares that we see today started in about 1800 when Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford removed Bedford House and developed the land to the north with Russell Square as its centrepiece.

William de Blemond in the 13th century, a Norman, was the first landowner. Edward III acquired Blemond’s manor, and passed it on to the Carthusian monks who governed it until Henry VIII granted it to the Earl of Southampton. The Russell family became landowners in the 18th century.

Bloomsbury has no official boundaries, but can be roughly defined as the square of territory bounded by Tottenham Court Road to the west, Euston Road to the north, Gray’s Inn Road to the east, and either High Holborn or the thoroughfare formed by New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury Way and Theobald’s Road to the south. Bloomsbury merges gradually with Holborn in the south, with St Pancras and King’s Cross in the north-east and with Clerkenwell in the south-east.

Bloomsbury contains some of London’s finest parks and buildings, and is particularly known for its formal squares. These include:

The area surrounding Bloomsbury has several London Underground stations, although only two of these (Russell Square and Euston Square) have entrances in Bloomsbury itself. The other stations, located on the fringes of Bloomsbury, are Euston, Goodge Street, Warren Street, Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Chancery Lane and King’s Cross St. Pancras.

The mainline rail stations Euston, King’s Cross and St. Pancras are all just north of Bloomsbury. Since November 14, 2007 (2007-11-14), Eurostar services have relocated to St Pancras, promising shorter journey times to Paris and Brussels and better connections to the rest of the UK.

Bloomsbury is also the site of the disused British Museum tube station.

It is well served by buses, with over 12 different routes running south down Gower Street and both north and south through Russell Square. Route 7 goes along Great Russell Street, past the British Museum, and on to Russell Square.

One of the 13 surviving taxi drivers’ shelters in London, where drivers can stop for a meal and a drink, is in Russell Square.

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