Did you know this about the Bloomsbury area?

Curious to know a bit more about the history of the Bloomsbury area where our mews houses are located? Recognised as the literary and intellectual hub of London, Bloomsbury has a long history in the arts and education and is the home to a great number of prestigious colleges and universities. Sitting down at a local literary café, one can expect to find like-minded intellectuals studying over a cup of tea or enjoying a pint in one of the many historic pubs in the neighbourhood. Bloomsbury is without a doubt an area with a rich history! Historians even believe that the neighbourhood can claim to be the first community to be developed after the Great Fire in 1666.

The first recordings of the Bloomsbury area were as early as in the Domesday Book, a manuscript record completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror, stating that the region had various vineyards and “wood for 100 pigs”. It was not until 1201 however, when William de Blemond, a Norman landowner, obtained the land that the name Bloomsbury was first introduced. The area is named after the Blemond Family – Blemondisberi meaning the bury/manor of Blemond. The manor house (“bury”) of the family was built on what is now known as Bloomsbury Square.

Photo from BritishHistory.ac.uk

The Bloomsbury neighbourhood was later further developed into a fashionable residential area by the Wriothesley and Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries, making it resemble what it looks like today. The region had by the 16th century been granted to Thomas Wriothesley, the 1st Earl of Southampton. His great grandson Thomas Wriothesley, the 4th Earl of Southampton, began the development of the Bloomsbury area, including Bloomsbury Square, the construction of Southampton House, Bedford House as well as Bedford Square. By 1667, his daughter Lady Rachel Vaughan inherited the land and married Lord William Russell in 1669, bringing the Bloomsbury Estate into the Russell family and further developing Bloomsbury Square and its surrounding areas. Even though Covent Garden was developed as the first continental-style piazza of London back in the 1620s, Bloomsbury Square was the first in London to be called a public square. Much of the Bloomsbury area has since been developed by the Russell Family and is today managed by the Bedford Estate Office in London.

From a historical perspective, a Londoner would associate Bloomsbury with the arts, museums, medicine and various educational institutions. Some of you might have heard of the influential Bloomsbury Group, a group of English writers, artists, intellectuals and philosophers who met to discuss their work and beliefs in their private Bloomsbury homes. The group’s most famous members included individuals such as Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. The 1920’s was a booming time for Bloomsbury, Virginia Woolf was publishing her most popular modernist novels, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell had extraordinary exhibitions and E. M. Forster wrote A Passage to India, one of England’s highest regarded novels on British imperialism in India. Another great author who lived in Bloomsbury was Charles Dickens, known and treasured all over the world with his remarkable work such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers. He resided at 48 Doughty Street during the1830’s with his family, where he paid £80 rent a year. Today, the address is a museum, just across the street from the Merino offices, where the literary interested can step inside the home of this writer and social critic. In addition, other notable inhabitants of the neighbourhood include Mathama Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Bob Marley, Ricky Gervais, Charles Dickens and Catherine Tate.

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Nowadays, Bloomsbury is not only a place where one can walk in the shoes of the great historical authors and world famous characters but the home to various high-level educational institutions. Establishments such as University of London, Birkbeck College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Pharmacy, and the Royal Veterinary College and University College London, a branch of the University of Law, London Contemporary Dance School, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and Goodenough College are located in the area.

In addition to being a hub for educational establishments, Bloomsbury is the home to many interesting museums such as The British Museum just minutes away. Founded in 1753, it was the first national public museum in the world and currently attracts over 6 million annual visitors. Make sure to soak up some history by letting the museum take you on a journey through 2 million years’ worth of human history with an immense collection of incredible artefacts!

Whatever brings you to London, the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury is hard to miss. In recent years, Bloomsbury has also been referred to as Midtown due to its convenient location between The City and West End, so it is likely that if you have been to London before you have been here for leisure or business and didn’t even realise. It’s low-profile and quaint tree-lined streets and mews award it with an air of an urban village. Paired with its rich history, central location and excellent transport links, Bloomsbury today continues to attract influential and affluent residents, businesses and travellers alike!

Victoria E. Westvik

Merino Hospitality

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