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.
Gower Street is named after Gertrude Leveson-Gower, the wife of John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford.
Leveson-Gower was noted as a formidable adviser to her husband who held various political roles during the reigns of George II and George III, including Lord Privy Seal and Ambassador to France at the end of the Seven Years’ War.
The Gower baronetcy was a subsidiary title of the Duke of Sutherland, held in the Leveson-Gower family until 1963.
The area now known as Bloomsbury had come into the possession of the Russell family in 1669. That year the 5th Earl of Bedford’s son married Lady Rachel Vaughan, daughter of the 4th Earl of Southampton.
Southampton had started developing the area in the 1660s. John Russell died in 1771 and Gower Street was laid out from the 1780s onwards under Lady Gertrude’s supervision. During its development, a square was proposed near the northern end but the land was taken instead for University College London
. The university was founded to provide an alternative to the Anglican-dominated colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and was nicknamed ‘the godless institution of Gower Street’. The Wilkins Building opened in 1828 and the university has since progressively expanded to consume most of the east side of Gower Street and the land behind it. University College hospital opened on the west side of the street in 1833. The hospital’s early medical students invented ‘Gower Street dialect’ - spoonerisms such as ‘poking a smipe’ for ‘smoking a pipe’.
Gower Street still has one of London’s longest sets of unbroken Georgian terraces.
Gower Street was one of the original stations on the London Underground when the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863.
10 Gower Street, Bloomsbury
The earliest record of what would become Bloomsbury is the 1086 Domesday Book, which records 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 piece of folk etymology is now discredited.
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 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.