Great Russell Street, WC1A

PLACE NAME

A reference to the Russell family, dukes of Bedford who inherited Bloomsbury in 1669 following the marriage of William, Lord Russell, the Duke of Bedford (September 29, 1639 – July 21, 1683) and Rachel Wriothesley (about 1636 – September 29, 1723). The Wriothesley family had held the estate since 1545 when it was given to them by Henry VIII at the dissolution of the monasteries. Contrary to what it might suggest, the prefix Great does not, as Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names says, imply a particular grandeur or importance in a street, rather it generally indicates the presence of a corresponding Little street, in this case Little Russell Street. Bebbington explains “In the late 1930s the London County Council systematically attempted to eliminate all prefixed names from the London Directory, and hundreds of suburban ‘Greats’ were simply dropped… However the rule was sometimes waived when there were complaints that changing well-established names would be harmful to City businessmen or destructive of historical interest.” In which case this street can lay claim to a certain antiquity. The records of Bloomsbury Manor and St Giles’ Hospital indicate that it existed as early as the 13thCentury as a cart track along the boundary between these two estates. Its eastern section, Bloomsbury Place, was developed and named around the end of the 17thCentury.

 

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