Gower Court, WC1E

Place Name

Gertrude Leveson-Gower (February 15, 1715 – July 1, 1794) was one of the prime instigators in the residential development of Bloomsbury in the late 18thCentury. As the wife (and later widow) of local landowner John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, she oversaw the transformation of the area into a restricted upper-middle class district, with much of the development taking the form of “wide streets and grand squares fit for the gentry”. Her grandson Francis Russell, the 5th Duke, continued her work in the early 19thCentury, laying out Russell Square and the surrounding area. Leveson-Gower was the eldest daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower, a British Tory politician, and his wife, the former Lady Evelyn Pierrepont. On April 2, 1737 she married the duke of Bedford, whose family had owned Bloomsbury since 1669. They had two children. Described by Horace Walpole as being “stingy” and “avaricious”, it is also said that she “understood thoroughly the value of court smiles”, and in 1762 attended the French court at Versailles in an ambassadorial role. She was interested in art, and her portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1756 and Thomas Hudson. This street was in the north-west of the Russell’s Bloomsbury estate. It was laid out in the early 19thCentury and appears in outline on Horwood’s map of 1819. Prior to that the area had been fields. The Ordnance Survey map of 1867-1870 shows access to it from both ends of Gower Place. In the 20thCentury it became a service yard for University College London (UCL); only its original eastern end still exists.


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