Bloomsbury is an area of central London in the south of the London Borough of Camden, developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area. It is notable for its array of gardened squares, its literary connections (exemplified by the Bloomsbury Group), and its numerous hospitals and academic institutions.
While Bloomsbury was not the first area of London to acquire a formal square, Southampton Square (now named Bloomsbury Square), which was laid out by Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton in 1660, was the first square to actually be named as such.
Bloomsbury is home to the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the British Medical Association, the University of London's Senate House Library and its colleges (University College London, Birkbeck, Institute of Education, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Oriental and African Studies and the Royal Veterinary College).
Bloomsbury was formerly home to the British Library, housed within the British Museum; the Library moved in 1997 to larger premises at a nearby location next to St Pancras railway station in Somers Town.
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.
In the early 1660s, the Earl of Southampton constructed what was eventually to become Bloomsbury Square. However the area was laid out mainly in the 18th century, largely by landowners like 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 centre piece.
Bloomsbury has no official boundaries, but can be roughly defined as the square 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, and with St Pancras in the north-east and Clerkenwell in the south-east.
The area is bisected north to south by the main Southampton Row-Woburn Place thoroughfare, which contains 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. Torrington Place is close to University College London and has a pub called the Marlborough Arms which has a wooden man propped by the window on the 1st floor to welcome drinkers.
To the east of the busy Southampton Row-Woburn Place main road Bloomsbury is mainly residential. This half contains the Brunswick shopping centre and cinema, and Coram's Fields recreation area. The area to the north of Coram's Fields consists of tenements and is generally considered part of St Pancras or King's Cross rather than north-eastern Bloomsbury. The area to the south is slightly less residential, containing several hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, and gradually becomes more commercial in character as it approaches the boundary with Holborn at Theobald's Road.
The west of Woburn Place-Southampton Row is notable for its concentration of academic establishments, museums, teaching hospitals and formal squares. It is this side that contains the British Museum and the University of London. The most prominent road is Gower Street which is a one way road running south from Euston Road towards Shaftesbury Avenue in Covent Garden, becoming Bloomsbury Street when it passes to the west of the British Museum.
Historically, Bloomsbury is associated with the arts, education and medicine. The area gives its name to the Bloomsbury Group (also Bloomsbury Set) 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 is in Queen Square, though at the time when 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.
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 (foundlings) in Georgian London. The hospital, now demolished but for the Georgian colonnade, is today a playground and outdoor sports field for children, called Coram’s Fields; adults are only admitted with a child. It is also home to a small number of sheep. The nearby Lamb’s Conduit Street is a pleasant thoroughfare with independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
There is also the Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, and the Petrie Museum and the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London in Gower Street. The Museum Mile, London is a route covering many of the museums in Bloomsbury.
Bloomsbury contains three 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 second is 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 June 10, 1954 it has been a Grade I listed building.
The third is 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 area surrounding Bloomsbury is served by numerous 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 located just outside the northern edge of Bloomsbury. Since Wednesday, , 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 home to 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 past Russell Square. Route 7 goes along Great Russell Street, past the British Museum, and on to Russell Square.
There is one of the 13 surviving taxi driver's shelters on Russell Square where drivers will stop for a meal and a drink.