Bloomsbury: A History
Bloomsbury, known for its literary connections, numerous cultural, education and health-care institutions and some of London’s finest parks and buildings, is buried in a little corner in the Borough of Camden, Central London.
Bloomsbury dates back to 1201 when the land was acquired by William De Belmond and its name was created.
[H]owever, it wasn’t until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that the wealthy Russell family developed Bloomsbury into a popular residential area. Bloomsbury Square was constructed back in the sixteenth century when Henry VIII granted to land to the Earl of Southampton. It is notable for being the first named formal square in central London, but the major squares in the Bloomsbury of today were not developed until the Russell family stepped in, with Russell Square becoming the main feature.
Over the centuries, Bloomsbury was home to many people who made significant contributions to the literature, arts, science and philosophical communities. Most notably, Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, J. M. Barrie and Mathama Gandhi.
The Bloomsbury Set
In the early 1900’s a group of writers, philosophers and artists met in Bloomsbury. They were a group of intellectual people, made up of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa, author E. M. Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes, and artist Roger Fry to name a few. This group later become known as The Bloomsbury Set.
The Bloomsbury Set grew into a very influential group, but their close relationships all pre-dated their fame as writers, artists and thinkers. According to Ian Ousby, “although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts”. Collectively, their works influenced many modern day attitudes and cultures, including: literature, economics, feminism and sexuality.
Life in Squares
In August 2015, BBC aired a new period drama called Life in Squares, which strips The Bloomsbury Set down to the group’s talents, tantrums and trysts. The three part series, scripted by Amanda Coe, follows The Bloomsbury Set from the death of Queen Victoria to the beginning of the Second World War.
Dorothy Parker, famously described The Bloomsbury Set, as friends who “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles”. ‘Life in Squares’ portrays the tangled relationships of the group and the plot twists explore the relationship between sisters Virginia Woolf (Catherine McCormack) and Vanessa Bell (Phoebe Fox).
Executive producer, Lucy Bedford said: “Life in Squares gets under the skin of the Bloomsbury Group to lay bare the very human and emotional story of a group of people determined to find their own path in life. Locked in a perpetual struggle to reconcile their head with their hearts, they loved and worked with great passion and forged lives that still resonate today”.
Fully refurbished and brought up to modern standards, Bloomsbury maintains its village vibe and still attracts artists, authors, doctors and businessmen; all of whom are drawn to the neat residences and quiet districts of the area. With the wide streets, dairy markets, butchers and blue plaques featured on many of the properties denoting that a brilliant writer, scientist or philosopher once occupied the building; the history in Bloomsbury is still very much apparent and the area exudes culture.
Today, Bloomsbury is home to The British Museum, The British Library, the campus of University College London, RADA – London’s grandest theatre school, and numerous historic homes, parks and buildings.
Despite its central location, Bloomsbury is surprisingly quiet, with many of the squares lined with picturesque Georgian houses. Susan Cohen, Head of Sales and Lettings at Pastor Real Estate, said: “Bloomsbury is an excellent location in central London, which continues to appeal to artists and writers while also attracting the contemporary urbanite and city professional”.
Since The Bloomsbury Set was established, Bloomsbury has been home to Catherine Tate, Bob Marley and Ricky Gervais; continuously attracting creative minds around the world. As one of the safest neighbourhoods in London, Bloomsbury is home to families, couples and singles alike. Anyone seeking inspiration with a desire to live free of mind, like The Bloomsbury Set, would be the perfect addition to Bloomsbury – where ideas are made.
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