I explored this route twice, once on a sunny afternoon and once at the end of the day, so the photographs reflect the different light at these times.
Russell Square was part of a grand redevelopment plan by the Earls of Southampton, and then through marriage, the Dukes of Bedford. The 1st Earl of Southampton bought the Manor of Bloomsbury from the Crown in 1545, and in 1661 Charles II granted the family a licence to begin building Bloomsbury Square. According to this article Lord Southampton ‘..pioneered the system of development by hereditary landlords through speculative builders which brought the rest of Bloomsbury (and half of London) into being…’.
On the west side some of the original houses by James Burton remain, but those on the north and south were changed in the 19C. All the housing on the east was replaced by the Russell Hotel.
Queen’s Square is hidden behind busy Russell Street and was developed between 1708 and 1720, with the gardens laid out in 1716. The square was originally open to the north, as shown in the print below, with views of the hills. Like all these squares the land was privately owned (and remains so) and leased for residential developments for the aristocracy or the very wealthy. Dr Charles Burney and his daughter Fanny were residents and in 1776 she wrote of ‘..the ‘beautiful prospect’ from her Queen Square house ‘of the hills, ever verdant and smiling’. As people moved out of the centre of London the use changed and this became an area associated with medicine. (The National Hospital for Neurology, The Italian Hospital, and The Great Ormond Street Hospital which is just round the corner.)
On the south of the square, the Italian Hospital, and the Mary Ward Centre, housed in buildings from early 1700s, but subsequently changed.
The buildings on the west date from 18C and 19C and retain some of the original character of the square. No.6 was originally built in 1713 but refaced later in the century, and houses the Art Workers Guild.
Two buildings are earlier than the square: the Church of St George the Martyr was built in 1706 and the pub, The Queen’s Larder dates from 1710. This church, and St George, Bloomsbury, shared a burial ground today called St George’s Gardens, on the northern side of Coram’s Fields. (Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were married in this church in 1956.)
There was apparently a reservoir under the square, fed by nearby (?) springs which led water via The Devil’s Conduit to Greyfriars Monastery in Newgate Street, a distance of 1.2 miles. A pump at the south of the square lends credence to this, and does this photograph of the 14C conduit head, and these photographs pinpoint the site as behind and below no.20 Queen’s Square until redevelopment in 2011.
(Good post on history and timeline for Russell Square here.)
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