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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Squares of Bloomsbury

Yesterday on this blog, I (Victoria) reported on my visit to Bedford Square in Bloomsbury, reportedly the only complete Georgian square left in London.  There are many squares in Bloomsbury but most of them are now surrounded by hotels, university buildings and other modern structures, and they are open to the public. Even so, most of them were ready for visitors on Open Squares Weekend, 2010, June 12 and 13.

Russell Square is the largest of the Bloomsbury squares. It is a comfortable lunch spot for many area workers, has fine strolling paths for lingering tourists, and boasts a gelato shop also offering sandwiches coffee, etc.

The pigeons enjoy a bath in the Russell Square Fountain. I always wonder about the people who toss crusts to these urban creatures (to me, just flying rats) since it only encourages them to stay and invite their pals. Trafalgar Square now has a few neighborhood falcons that chase away the pigeons and signs disallowing feeding.

The venerable old Hotel Russell can be glimpsed through the trees.  We had a mini family reunion there a few years ago and celebrated Valentine's Day in the excellent restaurant. That's another plane tree in the foreground.











Flowers blooming in Bloomsbury's Russell Square.

The statue at the edge of Russell Square is Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765-1805) who was not only a prominent politician but the man most responsible for the development of this former Russell family farm into urban squares for residential use.  In a few days, I will blog on my visit to the Woburn Abbey, the country estate of the Russell/Bedford family -- in Bedfordshire, where else?

Tavistock Square is another of the Bloomsbury public gardens, and it has evolved into a sort of memorial for peace and justice. There is also a bust of Virignia Woolf (1882-1941), the great 20th century writer.

With her husband and friends, Woolf was the center of the Bloomsbury Group, a renowned literary circle. She lived on Tavistock Square in a now demolished house.

In the center of Tavistock Square is a bronze sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1949), the father of Indian independence and inspiration for all non-violent protesters around the world. He studied law at London University and later was beaten and imprisoned by British authorities in India.

Near the Hiroshima Tree, planted in 1967 to memorialize the victims of the first atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945, is the Peace Stone, at right.  In 1994, this stone was dedicated to "all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill." It is London's only pacifist memorial.

                                                                     In a strange concurrence of place and event, the street outside this corner of Tavistock Square was the scene of a terrorist bombing on 7/7/2005 in which a double decker bus was blown up, killing 13 innocent travelers.  Several bombs exploded that day on underground trains, killing many more people.

Along with several universities, Bloomsbury is the home of the great institution, The British Museum with its amazing collections. Out in front of the museum in the summer of 2010, TBM planted a South African garden with assistance from the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. It fit in well with the obsession Europe has this summer with the World Cup being played in South Africa.
Gordon Square is a twin of Tavistock Square, just a block away. It is open to the public and has lovely rose gardens. I particularly liked the color of this large grouping.

Another of the open gardens near Bloomsbury was the charming little retreat at the Academy Hotel on Gower Street.  We visitors to the garden were welcomed despite the many hotel residents enjoying their elevenses in delightful surroundings.

From here I left for George St. in Marylebone where Kristine, Brooke and I met up and went to lunch in the Marylebone High Street, at the Prince Regent pub, of course. Here are Kristine and Brooke, just off the plane, getting ready for a pint!

I was too ready for a drink to re-take ths rather blurry shot of the pub sign, in Prinny pink! All that garden-walking made me quite thirsty.









Also in our Marylebone neighborhood is Durants Hotel which traces its origin back to the 18th century. However, there was also a Durant's Hotel in St. James' Jermyn Street, which may have been the more famous of the locations in the Regency and early Victorian periods.  Nevertheless, we'd love to stay here in its old English Men's Club-designed setting.
Also in "our" neighborhood on Baker Street, we found this blue plaque saying that John Lennon once lived here.  Marylebone is quite a lively place, pronounced locally as MAR-le-bun, spoken quickly.  We enjoyed the many restaurants, pubs and shops near the apartment we rented. And it was very convenient to have a Tesco supermarket next door!
The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square was also in our neighborhood.  I will blog about it soon.  For now, cheerio.

3 comments:

Diane Gaston said...

Lovely tour!
Tavistock always reminds me of Tavistock group therapy, developed at the Tavistock Institute. So my worlds collide in that part of London.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I love Bedford Square. My friend's old boss has an office right on the Square. Exploring Bloomsbury is one of my favorite things to do. Charlotte and Thomas Pitt in Anne Perry's series have a house in Bloomsbury.

Margaret Evans Porter said...

I've stayed in Durrants many a time, it used to be our pied-a-terre when in London. A bit like living in a gentlemen's club, the guests' bar is delightful. But the lift is very small and slow, so I often took the staircase. Fantastic restaurant, too, and very attentive staff.