Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765-1802), eldest son of Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock (died 1767), by his wife, Elizabeth (died 1768), daughter of William Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, was baptized on 23 July 1765.

In January 1771 he succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Bedford, and was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, afterwards spending nearly two years in foreign travel.

Regarding Charles James Fox as his political leader, he joined the Whigs in the House of Lords, and became a member of the circle of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV.

Having overcome some nervousness and educational defects, he began to speak in the House, and soon became one of the leading debaters in that assembly. He opposed most of the measures brought forward by the ministry of William Pitt, and objected to the grant of a pension to Edmund Burke, an action which drew down upon him a scathing attack from Burke’s pen.

Bedford was greatly interested in agriculture. He established a model farm at Woburn, and made experiments with regard to the breeding of sheep. He was a member of the original Board of Agriculture, and was the first president of the Smithfield Club. He died at Woburn on 2 March 1802, and was buried in the family burying-place at Chenies. The duke was never married, and was succeeded in the title by his brother, John.

Influence on Bloomsbury

Francis Russell is responsible for much of the development of central Bloomsbury. Following demolition of Bedford House on the north side of Bloomsbury Square he commissioned James Burton (1761-1837) to develop the land to the north into a residential area. Russell Square was designed as the focal point of the development for which he commissioned Humphrey Repton to landscape after the success of his work for the Duke at his Woburn Estate. A statue by Richard Westmacott erected in 1807 has been conserved and stands at the south side of the square. It depicts Francis Russell as an agriculturalist with one hand on a plough, corn ears in the other and sheep at his feet. He looks out over the land he developed back towards Bloomsbury Square.

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