Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London, famed as a fashionable residential area and as the home of numerous prestigious cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions. It is bounded by Fitzrovia to the west, Covent Garden to the south, Regent's Park and St. Pancras to the north, and Clerkenwell to the east.
Bloomsbury is home of the British Museum, the largest museum in the United Kingdom, and numerous educational institutions, including the University College London, the University of London, the New College of the Humanities, the University of Law, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and many others. Bloomsbury is as an intellectual and literary hub for London, as home of world-known Bloomsbury Publishing, publishers of the Harry Potter series, and namesake of the Bloomsbury Set, a group of famous British intellectuals, including author Virginia Woolf and economist John Maynard Keynes, among others.
Bloomsbury began to be developed in the 1600's under the Earls of Southampton, but it was primarily in the 19th century, under the Duke of Bedford, which the district was planned and built as an affluent Regency era residential area by famed developer James Burton. The district is known for its numerous garden squares, including Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square, and Tavistock Square, among others.
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. An 1878 publication, Old and New London: Volume 4, mentions the idea that the area was named after a village called "Lomesbury" which formerly stood where Bloomsbury Square is now, though this etymology is now discredited.
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.
Historically, Bloomsbury is associated with the arts, education, and medicine. The area gives its name to the Bloomsbury Group of artists, the most famous of whom was Virginia Woolf, who met in private homes in the area in the early 1900s, and to the lesser known Bloomsbury Gang of Whigs formed in 1765 by John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford. The publisher Faber & Faber used to be located in Queen Square, though at the time T. S. Eliot was editor the offices were in Tavistock Square. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents' house on Gower Street in 1848.
The Bloomsbury Festival was launched in 2006 when local resident Roma Backhouse was commissioned to mark the re-opening of the Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping area. The free festival is a celebration of the local area, partnering with galleries, libraries and museums, and achieved charitable status at the end of 2012. As of 2013, the Duchess of Bedford is a festival patron and Cathy Mager is the Festival Director.
Bloomsbury is home to Senate House and the main library of the University of London, Birkbeck College, Institute of Education, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Royal Veterinary College and University College London (with the Slade School of Fine Art), a branch of the University of Law, London Contemporary Dance School, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and Goodenough College. Other colleges include the University of London's School of Advanced Study, the Architectural Association School of Architecture in Bedford Square, and the London campuses of several American colleges including Arcadia University, the University of California, University of Delaware, Florida State University, Syracuse University, New York University, and the Hult International Business School.
Also different kinds of tutoring institutions like Bloomsbury International for English Language, Bloomsbury Law Tutors for law education, Skygate Tutors and Topmark Tutors Centre contributing to grow the private tutoring sector in Bloomsbury.
The British Museum, which first opened to the public in 1759 in Montagu House, is at the heart of Bloomsbury. At the centre of the museum the space around the former British Library Reading Room, which was filled with the concrete storage bunkers of the British Library, is today the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, an indoor square with a glass roof designed by British architect Norman Foster. It houses displays, a cinema, a shop, a cafe and a restaurant. Since 1998, the British Library has been located in a purpose-built building just outside the northern edge of Bloomsbury, in Euston Road.
Also in Bloomsbury is the Foundling Museum, close to Brunswick Square, which tells the story of the Foundling Hospital opened by Thomas Coram for unwanted children in Georgian London. The hospital, now demolished except for the Georgian colonnade, is today a playground and outdoor sports field for children, called Coram's Fields. It is also home to a small number of sheep. The nearby Lamb's Conduit Street is a pleasant thoroughfare with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Bloomsbury contains several notable churches:
- St George's Church, located on Bloomsbury Way in the south of the area, was built by Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1716 and 1731. It has a deep Roman porch with six huge Corinthian columns, and is notable for its steeple based on the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus and for the statue of King George I on the top.
- The Early English Neo-Gothic Church of Christ the King on Gordon Square. It was designed for the Irvingites by Raphael Brandon in 1853. Since 10 June 1954 it has been a Grade I listed building.
- St Pancras New Church on the northern boundary, near Euston station. This church was completed in 1822, and is notable for the caryatids on north and south which are based on the "porch of the maidens" from the Temple of the Erechtheum.
- The church of St George the Martyr in Queen Square was built 1703–06, and was where Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath married on Bloomsday in 1956.
- Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in Shaftesbury Avenue, is the central church of the Baptist denomination. It was opened in 1848, having been built by Sir Samuel Moreton Peto MP, one of the great railway contractors of the age.
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 Theobalds 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.
The area is bisected north to south by the main road Southampton Row/Woburn Place, which has several large tourist hotels and links Tavistock Square and Russell Square – the central points of Bloomsbury. The road runs from Euston and Somers Town in the north to Holborn in the south.
East of Southampton Row/Woburn Place are the Grade II listed Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping centre, and Coram's Fields children's recreation area. The area to the north of Coram's Fields consists mainly of blocks of flats, built as both private and social housing, which is often considered part of St Pancras or King's Cross rather than north-eastern Bloomsbury. The area to the south is generally less residential, containing several hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, and gradually becomes more commercial in character as it approaches Holborn at Theobald's Road.
The area west of Southampton Row/Woburn Place is notable for its concentration of academic establishments, museums, and formal squares. Here are the British Museum and the central departments and colleges of the University of London, including Birkbeck College, University College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the University of London's School of Advanced Study. The main north-south road in west Bloomsbury is Gower Street which is a one-way street running south from Euston Road towards Shaftesbury Avenue in Covent Garden, becoming Bloomsbury Street when it passes to the west of the British Museum.
For street name etymologies see Street names of Bloomsbury.
Parks and squaresEdit
Bloomsbury contains some of London's finest parks and buildings, and is particularly known for its formal squares. These include:
- Russell Square, a large and orderly square; its gardens were originally designed by Humphry Repton. Russell Square Underground station is a short distance away.
- Bedford Square, built between 1775 and 1783, is still surrounded by Georgian town houses.
- Bloomsbury Square has a small circular garden surrounded by Georgian buildings.
- Queen Square, home to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
- Gordon Square, surrounded by the history and archaeology departments of University College London, as well as the former home of John Maynard Keynes, the economist. This is where the Bloomsbury Group lived and met.
- Woburn Square and Torrington Square, home to other parts of University College London.
- Tavistock Square, home to the British Medical Association; its eastern edge was the site of one of the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
- Mecklenburgh Square, east of Coram's Fields, one of the few squares which remains locked for the use of local residents.
- Coram's Fields, a large recreational space on the eastern edge of the area, formerly home to the Foundling Hospital. It is only open to children and to adults accompanying children.
- Brunswick Square, now occupied by the School of Pharmacy and the Foundling Museum.
The area lay within the parishes of St Giles in the Fields and St George's, Bloomsbury, which were absorbed into the St Giles District as part of the Metropolis Management Act 1855. It is now controlled by the London Borough of Camden.
In February 2010, businesses were balloted on an expansion of the InHolborn Business Improvement District (BID) to include the southern part of Bloomsbury. Only businesses with a rateable value in excess of £60,000 could vote as only these would pay the BID levy. This expansion of the BID into Bloomsbury was supported by Camden Council. The proposal was passed and part of Bloomsbury was brought within the InHolborn BID.
Controversy was raised during this BID renewal when InHolborn proposed collecting Bloomsbury, St Giles and Holborn under the name of "Midtown", since it was seen as "too American". Businesses were informed about the BID proposals, but there was little consultation with residents or voluntary organisations. InHolborn produced a comprehensive business plan aimed at large businesses. Bloomsbury is now part of InMidtown BID with its 2010 to 2015 business plan and a stated aim to make the area "a quality environment In which to work and live, a vibrant area to visit, and a profitable place in which to do business".
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital) are both located on Great Ormond Street, off Queen Square, which itself is home to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (formerly the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases). Bloomsbury is also the location of University College Hospital, which re-opened in 2005 in new buildings on Euston Road, built under the government's private finance initiative (PFI). The Eastman Dental Hospital is located on Gray's Inn Road close to the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital administered by the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust.
The area surrounding Bloomsbury has several London Underground stations, although only three of these (Russell Square, King's Cross St. Pancras 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, and Chancery Lane.
Bloomsbury is also the site of the disused British Museum Underground 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.
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