Little Russell Street, WC1A

PLACE NAME

The Russells, dukes of Bedford inherited Bloomsbury following the marriage of William, Lord Russell (September 29, 1639 – July 21, 1683) and Rachel, Lady Wriothesley (about 1636 – September 29, 1723) in 1669, they built this street a year later. At the turn of the 13thCentury, the estate was owned by a Norman landowner called William de Blemund (after whom the district is named). Edward III acquired it at the end of the 14thCentury and passed it to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse. It returned to the Crown under Henry VIII who seized it at the dissolution of the monasteries and granted it to the Wriothesleys, earls of Southampton, in 1545. The earls began developing the area which continued under the dukes of Bedford, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names says that the prefix Little does not, as would suggest, denote a street of lesser importance, rather it generally indicates the presence of a corresponding Great street, in this case Great Russell Street. The street’s rich history was enough to ensure the survival of its name during London County Council’s move to eliminate all prefixed names from the London Directory in the 1930s. Little almost entirely disappeared from use, and most existing streets were completely renamed. Bebbington explains however that “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.”

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