Bedford Place, WC1A


The Russell family, titled the dukes of Bedford, owned Bloomsbury from around 1669. Up until 1801 their family town house overlooked Bloomsbury Square. The estate originated as the holdings of Thomas Wriothesley, later the Earl of Southampton, who acquired them from Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545. While Wriothesley’s descendants started developing the area, laying out Bloomsbury Square and Bloomsbury Place, it was the Russells who were the prime movers in its residential development. Francis Russell, the 5th Duke of Bedford (July 23, 1765 – March 2, 1802), is the most likely contender for the street name. Russell had the family house demolished in 1801 and commissioned prolific builder, James Burton, to lay out this street on its site as part of a prestigious building project, that in the words of Donald Olsen in London Town Planning would instigate “the systematic transformation of the pastures of northern Bloomsbury into a restricted upper-middle class suburb”. The estate also did much for the betterment of the area. Olsen continues: “In 1854 the Duke had made at his own expense sewers in Tavistock Mews, Great Russell Street, Little Russell Street, Gilbert Street, and Rose Street. The Bedfords were also engaged in a programme of installing water closets in the houses on its property, and connecting them with the new sewers, as required by law… In a letter to the Lancet that year the physician to the Bloomsbury Dispensary praised the Duke’s sanitary projects, and attributed to them the mildness of the recent cholera epidemic on his estate.”

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