When it was first laid out (on the site of a cherry orchard, says Camden History Society), this was called Southampton Square after the landowner Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, who commissioned Humphrey Repton to design and build it sometime around 1661. It is one of London’s earliest squares, if not its very first square. John Strype writing in 1720, described it as “very spacious, with good Houses, well inhabited and resorted unto by Gentry for Lodgings, which said Street comes out of High Holborn, and fronts the Square called Southampton Square, being a large open Place railed in, with Rows of large Buildings on all sides; that on the East side called Seymour Row; that on the South, Vernon Street, that on the West, Allington Row, and that on the North is fronted by Southampton House, which is a large Buildings, with a spacious Court before it for the Reception of Coaches, and a curious Garden behind which lieth open to the Fields enjoying a wholesome and pleasant Air.” Southampton House, the earls’ town house, survived up until 1801. By the time John Rocque published his map of London in 1746, Bloomsbury was in the hands of the dukes of Bedford who renamed the Square after the area. That itself was named after Norman landowner, William de Blemond (or Blemund) who acquired an area which corresponds roughly to modern Bloomsbury in 1201, which is when the name first appears. 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. In the 1950s, the Bedford Estate let the Square to Holborn Borough Council. None of the original houses remain.
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