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Bloomsbury is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
Population10,892 (2011 Census. Ward)[1]
OS grid referenceTQ305825
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtWC1, NW1
Dialling code020
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°31′34″N 0°07′04″W / 51.5262°N 0.1178°W / 51.5262; -0.1178Coordinates: 51°31′34″N 0°07′04″W / 51.5262°N 0.1178°W / 51.5262; -0.1178

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London.[2][3] It is considered a fashionable residential area, and is the location of numerous cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions.[4]

Bloomsbury is home of the British Museum, the largest museum in the United Kingdom, and several educational institutions, including University College London and a number of other colleges and institutes of the University of London as well as its central headquarters, the New College of the Humanities, the University of Law, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Syracuse University Abroad[5], and many others. Bloomsbury is an intellectual and literary hub for London, as home of world-known Bloomsbury Publishing, publishers of the Harry Potter series, and namesake of the Bloomsbury Set, a group of British intellectuals which included author Virginia Woolf, biographer Lytton Strachey, and economist John Maynard Keynes.

Bloomsbury began to be developed in the 17th century under the Earls of Southampton,[6] but it was primarily in the 19th century, under the Duke of Bedford, that the district was planned and built as an affluent Regency era residential area by famed developer James Burton.[7] The district is known for its numerous garden squares, including Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square, and Tavistock Square, Mecklenburgh Square, among others.[8]


The Church of Christ the King was built in 1850.
The historic seat of the Royal Historical Society

Bloomsbury (including the closely linked St Giles area) has a long association with neighbouring Holborn; but is nearly always considered as distinct from Holborn.

Origins and etymology

The vicinity is first described in a charter of 959; the charter describes the bounds of a manor (estate) stretching from the River Tyburn to the Fleet, and referring to the "old wooden church of St Andrew", in Holborn, while a further charter of 1002 describes an extended manor which extended further north.[9] The geographical description, the reference to St Andrews church, Holborn and other details suggest that the extended estate was the origin for the manors of Holborn[10] and perhaps also Tottenham Court,[11] both described in the Domesday Book in 1086.

The area appears to have been a part of the parish, and perhaps also the manor, of Holborn when St Giles hospital was established in the early 1100s.[12]

The earliest record of the name, Bloomsbury, is as Blemondisberi in 1281. It is named after a member of the Blemund family who held the manor. There are older records relating to the family in London in 1201 and 1230. Their name, Blemund, derives from Blemont, a place in Vienne, in western France.[13]

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,[14] though this etymology is now discredited.

At the end of the 14th century, Edward III acquired Blemond's manor, and passed it on to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse, the area remained rural at this time.

In the 16th century with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII took the land back into the possession of the Crown and granted it to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton.

Administrative history

The area was part of the Ancient Parish of St Giles, served by the church of St Giles in the Fields. Some sources indicate that the parish was in place before 1222[15] while others suggest 1547.[16] From 1597 onwards, English parishes were obliged to take on a civil as well as ecclesiastical role, starting with the relief of the poor.

In 1731 a small new independent parish of Bloomsbury was created, based on a small area round Bloomsbury Square. In 1774 these parishes recombined, for civil purposes, to form the parish of St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury – which had the same boundaries as the initial parish of St Giles.[16]

The area of the combined civil parish was used for the St Giles District, established under the Metropolis Management Act 1855.[17] This body managed certain infrastructure functions, while the civil parish continued with its responsibilities until the abolishment of the Poor Law in 1930, however it was not formally abolished until the creation of Greater London in 1965.

The combined parishes of St Giles and Bloomsbury (west) joined with most of Holborn District to form the Met. Borough of Holborn, in 1900

In 1900 the area of the St Giles District merged with Holborn District (excluding those parts of Finsbury Division which had been temporarily attached to Holborn) to form a new Metropolitan Borough of Holborn. The traditional boundaries of St Giles and Bloomsbury were used for wards in the new borough, though these were subject to minor rationalisations to reflect the modern street pattern rather than the historic basis of the older streets and pre-urban field boundaries. The combined civil parish continued to operate, in parallel, for a considerable time after.

In 1965 the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn merged with St Pancras and Hampstead to form the new London Borough of Camden.


The formal historic boundaries of the combined parish of St Giles and Bloomsbury (as adjusted in some places to reflect the modern street pattern) include Tottenham Court Road to the west, Torrington Place (formerly known, in part, as Francis Street) to the north, the borough boundary to the south and Kenton Street and both sides of Southampton Road to the west.

Wards of the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn, 1952. Bloomsbury and St Giles (including Lincoln's Inn) were sub-divided but retained their identity

Bloomsbury no longer has official boundaries and is subject to varying informal definitions, based for convenience, on a quadrangle of streets. The western boundary of Tottenham Court Road is common to all and a northern limit of Euston Road is often understood, though Coram's Fields and the land to the north, consisting mainly of blocks of flats, built as both private and social housing, is often considered part of St Pancras (which includes King's Cross)[18][19] rather than north-eastern Bloomsbury. The northern part of the informal quadrangular definitions are traditionally part of the parish and borough of St Pancras.

The eastern boundary is sometimes taken to be in the region of Southampton Road[20] or further east on Grays Inn Road.[6] The southern extent is taken to approximates to High Holborn or the thoroughfare formed by New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury Way and Theobalds Road.

On the west side, the traditional and various informal definitions of the area are all based on the ancient Tottenham Court Road. The differences between the formal and more recent understandings of the area seem to derive from Bloomsbury having been commonly misconceived as being coterminous with the Bedford Estate.[21]


In the early 1660s, the Earl of Southampton, who held the manors of St Giles and Bloomsbury,[22] constructed what eventually became Bloomsbury Square. The Yorkshire Grey public house on the corner of Gray's Inn Road and Theobald's Road dates from 1676. The estate passed to the Russell family following the marriage of William Russell, Lord Russell (1639–1683) (third son of William Russell, 1st Duke of Bedford) to Rachel Wriothesley, heiress of Bloomsbury, younger of the two daughters and co-heiresses of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (1607-1667). Rachel's son and heir was Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford (1680–1711), of Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, whose family also owned Covent Garden, south of Bloomsbury, acquired by them at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The area was laid out mainly in the 18th century, largely by 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 demolished Bedford House and developed the land to the north with Russell Square as its centrepiece. Much is still owned today by the Bedford Estate in trust for the Russell family.


The area is bisected north to south by the main road Southampton Row/Woburn Place, which has several large tourist hotels and links Tavistock Square and Russell Square – the district's focal points. The road runs from Euston Road in the north to High Holborn in the south.

The area west of Southampton Row/Woburn Place is notable for its concentration of academic establishments, museums, and formal squares. Here are the British Museum and the central departments and colleges of the University of London, including Birkbeck College, University College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the University of London's School of Advanced Study. The main north–south road in west Bloomsbury is Gower Street which is a one-way street running south from Euston Road towards Shaftesbury Avenue in Covent Garden, becoming Bloomsbury Street when it passes to the west of the British Museum. East of Southampton Row/Woburn Place (an area not always described as part of Bloomsbury) are the Grade II listed Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping centre,[23] and Coram's Fields children's recreation area. The area to the south is generally less residential, containing several hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, and gradually becomes more commercial in character as it approaches Holborn at Theobald's Road.

Neighbouring areas include St Pancras to the north and west (the core area of Fitzrovia, to the west, is part of St Pancras), Covent Garden to the south and Holborn to the east.

For street name etymologies see Street names of Bloomsbury.


Historically, Bloomsbury is associated with the arts, education, and medicine. The area gives its name to the Bloomsbury Group of artists, among whom was Virginia Woolf, who met in private homes in the area in the early 1900s,[24] and to the lesser known Bloomsbury Gang of Whigs formed in 1765 by John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford. The publisher Faber & Faber used to be located in Queen Square, though at the time 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.

The Bloomsbury Festival was launched in 2006 when local resident Roma Backhouse was commissioned to mark the re-opening of the Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping area. The free festival is a celebration of the local area, partnering with galleries, libraries and museums,[25] and achieved charitable status at the end of 2012. As of 2013, the Duchess of Bedford is a festival patron and Cathy Mager is the Festival Director.[26][27]

Educational institutions

Bloomsbury is home to Senate House and the main library of the University of London, Birkbeck College, Institute of Education, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Royal Veterinary College and University College London (with the Slade School of Fine Art), a branch of the University of Law, London Contemporary Dance School, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and Goodenough College. Other colleges include the University of London's School of Advanced Study, the Architectural Association School of Architecture in Bedford Square, and the London campuses of several American colleges including Arcadia University, the University of California, University of Delaware, Florida State University, Syracuse University, New York University, and the Hult International Business School.

Also different kinds of tutoring institutions like Bloomsbury International for English Language, Bloomsbury Law Tutors for law education, Skygate Tutors and Topmark Tutors Centre contributing to grow the private tutoring sector in Bloomsbury.


The British Museum, which first opened to the public in 1759 in Montagu House, is at the heart of Bloomsbury. At the centre of the museum the space around the former British Library Reading Room, which was filled with the concrete storage bunkers of the British Library, is today the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, an indoor square with a glass roof designed by British architect Norman Foster. It houses displays, a cinema, a shop, a cafe and a restaurant. Since 1998, the British Library has been located in a purpose-built building just outside the northern edge of Bloomsbury, in Euston Road.

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 in Georgian London. The hospital, now demolished except for the Georgian colonnade, is today a playground and outdoor sports field for children, called Coram's Fields. It is also home to a small number of sheep. The nearby Lamb's Conduit Street is a pleasant thoroughfare with shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Dickens Museum is in Doughty Street. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Grant Museum of Zoology are at University College London in Gower Street.

The Postal Museum is on 15-20 Phoenix Place.


St George, Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury's parish church

Bloomsbury contains several notable churches:

Parks and squares

Bloomsbury contains some of London's finest parks and buildings, and is particularly known for its formal squares. These include:


Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital) are both located on Great Ormond Street, off Queen Square, which itself is home to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (formerly the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases). Bloomsbury is also the location of University College Hospital, which re-opened in 2005 in new buildings on Euston Road, built under the government's private finance initiative (PFI). The Eastman Dental Hospital is located on Gray's Inn Road close to the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital administered by the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust.

Administration and representation

Bloomsbury is in the parliamentary constituency of Holborn and St Pancras. The western half of the district comprises Bloomsbury ward, which elects three councillors to Camden Borough Council.


In February 2010, businesses were balloted on an expansion of the InHolborn Business Improvement District (BID) to include the southern part of Bloomsbury. Only businesses with a rateable value in excess of £60,000 could vote as only these would pay the BID levy. This expansion of the BID into Bloomsbury was supported by Camden Council.[32] The proposal was passed and part of Bloomsbury was brought within the InHolborn BID.[33]

Controversy was raised during this BID renewal when InHolborn proposed collecting Bloomsbury, St Giles and Holborn under the name of "Midtown", since it was seen as "too American".[34][35][36] Businesses were informed about the BID proposals, but there was little consultation with residents or voluntary organisations. InHolborn produced a comprehensive business plan aimed at large businesses.[37] Bloomsbury is now part of InMidtown BID with its 2010 to 2015 business plan and a stated aim to make the area "a quality environment In which to work and live, a vibrant area to visit, and a profitable place in which to do business".[38]



Several London railway stations serve Bloomsbury. There are three London Underground stations in Bloomsbury:

King's Cross St. Pancras station offers step-free access to all lines, whilst Euston Square offers step-free access to the westbound platform. Other stations nearby include: Euston, Warren Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road, Holborn and Chancery Lane. There is a disused station in Bloomsbury on the Piccadilly line at the British Museum.

There are also three National Rail stations to the north of Bloomsbury:

Eurostar services to France, Brussels and the Netherlands begin in London at St Pancras.[39][40]


Several bus stops can be found in Bloomsbury. All buses passing through Bloomsbury call at bus stops on Russell Square, Gower Street or Tottenham Court Road. Several key London destinations can be reached from Bloomsbury directly, including: Camden Town, Greenwich, Hampstead Heath, Piccadilly Circus, Victoria, and Waterloo. Euston bus station is to the north of Bloomsbury.[41][42]


One of the 13 surviving taxi drivers' shelters in London, where drivers can stop for a meal and a drink, is in Russell Square.[43]

Bloomsbury's road network links the district to several destinations across London. Key routes nearby include:

Air pollution

The London Borough of Camden measures roadside air quality in Bloomsbury. In 2017, average Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels recorded in Bloomsbury significantly exceeded the UK National Objective for cleaner air, set at 40μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre).[44]

2017 Average NO2 Levels Recorded in Bloomsbury[44]
Location NO2 concentration (μg/m3)
Euston Road (Automatic) 83
Euston Road 92.45
Bloomsbury Street 80.67


Several cycle routes cross Bloomsbury, with cycling infrastructure provided and maintained by both the London Borough of Camden and Transport for London (TfL). Many routes across Bloomsbury feature segregated cycle tracks or bus lanes for use by cyclists. Additionally, Bloomsbury is connected to the wider London cycle network via several routes, including:

Notable residents

Virginia Woolf, considered one of Britain's most important authors


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