Bradshaw’s Hand Book to London, Day 7, Torrington and Woburn Squares (no.42)

Torrington and Woburn Squares are also great ornaments to the neighbourhood..’,

Torrington Square was developed in 1821-28 by James Sim and his family for the Bedford Estate and named after Lord Torrington, the 6th Duke of Bedford’s father-in-law. During the 1800s it seemed to attract academically-minded residents. It is now owned by the University of London and only one Georgian terrace remains. The fields behind Montague House were variously known as ‘Montague Fields’ and ‘Southampton Fields’ and it was in this area that ‘The Field of the Forty Footsteps’ was located – a romantic story which has not left its trace!

Torrington Square

Torrington Square, looking towards Senate House

Torrington Square, looking northwards to the Church of Christ the King

Torrington Square, looking northwards to the Church of Christ the King

The only remaining Georgian houses are on the east side of the square. No.30 Torrington Square was Christina Rosetti’s home.

Torrington Square, Georgian houses

Torrington Square, Georgian houses

This post describes the square as a ‘green space’; on my visit it was covered in grey concrete, with a busy road separating the church from the remainder of the square – the main impression is of a busy thoroughfare, certainly not an ornament to the neighbourhood.

Woburn Square, which backs on to Torrington Square, is the smallest of the squares, with housing begun by James Sim and completed by his sons between 1821-28. It is of course named after Woburn Abbey, the main country seat of the Dukes of Bedford. Only the east side of the original buildings remain.

The East side of Woburn Square

The East side of Woburn Square

The housing on the other three sides of the square, and a church, have been demolished during the late 1900s to accommodate the University of London, and the square has shrunk – it extended to Russell Square until the 1970s when the southern end was demolished to create University of London buildings.

Notice board in the square, showing the changes

Notice board in the square, showing the changes (I apologise – I cut the photograph)

Christ Church (demolished 1974) stood at the right of the above row of houses, on the site now occupied by the Institute of Education. The church was built as a Chapel of Ease for St George’s, Bloomsbury. It apparently included a reredos by Burne-Jones in memory of Christina Rossetti.

Burne-Jones reredos in memory of Christina Rossetti, in Christ Church

Burne-Jones reredos in memory of Christina Rossetti, in Christ Church

Christ Church Woburn Square from a postcard on EBay, 1930

Christ Church Woburn Square from a postcard on EBay, 1930

The garden has been ‘renovated’, with a playground for children and sculptures, but again it felt gloomy and ‘lonely’ – perhaps it was just the time of day, and season, or me – look at this lovely picture of the garden.

You may be interested in
Bloomsbury Squares & Gardens
Bloomsbury Project
A description of Christ Church
The development of Bloomsbury