The name Bloomsbury was first introduced in 1201 when William de Blemond (or Blemund), a Norman landowner acquired the land, it is a development from Blemondisberi – literally the bury, or manor, of Blemond. Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names says that de Blemond was the brother of an eminent Anglo-Norman City merchant called Gervase, who owned a large mansion near Cornhill; hence the family name Belmont, which means Corn Hill. It has also been suggested that the family took their name from the area of Blemont in France. Either way, the estate stretched from modern Euston Road to High Holborn, and from west to east from Tottenham Court Road to Southampton Row. Development of the area began under the earls of Southampton who acquired the land at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545, and continued under the dukes of Bedford in the 18th and 19th centuries. The 4th Earl of Southampton completed Bloomsbury Square, and this street shortly afterwards, in 1661 to provide access to Southampton House, the family’s town house built to the designs of Inigo Jones. Bloomsbury Market, built by the 3rd Duke of Bedford, opened in 1730, and Bury Place and Bloomsbury Way were laid out around the same time to service it. The 5th Duke, Francis Russell, showed little interest in the estate and put the contents of the house up for auction in 1800. An aristocrat and Whig politician, he was also a prolific gambler, and something of a rogue having been involved in a very public menage a trois with Charles Maynard, second Viscount Maynard, and his wife Anne, Lady Maynard, while abroad in 1784. Though he is perhaps more famously remembered as the originator of the eponymous hairstyle, the Bedford level, or the Bedford Crop, arguably the most influential innovation in mens’ hairstyles. In 1795 in protest against government tax on hair powder, he abandoned the powdered and tied hairstyle commonly worn by men during that era in favour of a short, un-powdered style, encouraging his friends to do the same. Men’s hair has mostly remained short ever since. The name was a pun on an area of The Fens reclaimed by the family, as well as referring to Bedford’s radical (leveller) political views.
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