Bloomsbury (including the closely linked St Giles area) has a long association with neighbouring Holborn; but is nearly always considered as distinct from Holborn.
Origins and etymology
The area appears to have been a part of the parish of Holborn when St Giles hospital was established in the early 1100s.
The earliest record of the name, Bloomsbury, is as Blemondisberi in 1281. It is named after a member of the Blemund family who held the manor. There are older records relating to the family in London in 1201 and 1230. Their name, Blemund, derives from Blemont, a place in Vienne, in western France. At the end of the 14th century, Edward III acquired Blemond's manor, and passed it on to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse. The area remained rural at this time.
In 1731 a small new independent parish of Bloomsbury was created, based on a small area round Bloomsbury Square. In 1774 these parishes recombined, for civil purposes, to form the parish of St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury - which had the same boundaries as the initial parish of St Giles.
The area of the combined civil parish was used for the St Giles District (Metropolis), established under the Metropolis Management Act 1855. This body managed certain infrastructure functions, while the civil parish continued with its responsibilities until the abolishment of the Poor Law in 1930, however it was not formally abolished until the creation of Greater London in 1965.
The combined parishes of St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury (west) joined with most of Holborn District to form the Met. Borough of Holborn, in 1900
In 1900 the area of the St Giles District (Metropolis) merged with Holborn District (Metropolis) (excluding those parts of Finsbury Division which had been temporarily attached to Holborn) to form a new Metropolitan Borough of Holborn. The traditional boundaries of St Giles and Bloomsbury were used for wards in the new borough, though these were subject to minor rationalisations to reflect the modern street pattern rather than the historic basis of the older streets and pre-urban field boundaries. The combined civil parish continued to operate, in parallel, for a considerable time after.
The formal historic boundaries of the combined parish of St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury (as adjusted in some places to reflect the modern street pattern) include Tottenham Court Road to the west, Torrington Place (formerly known, in part, as Francis Street) to the north, the borough boundary to the south and Marchmont Street and Southampton Row to the east.
Wards of the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn, 1952. Bloomsbury and St Giles (including most of Lincoln's Inn) were sub-divided but retained their identity
Bloomsbury no longer has official boundaries and is subject to varying informal definitions, based for convenience, on a quadrangle of streets. The western boundary of Tottenham Court Road is common to all and a northern limit of Euston Road is often understood, though Coram's Fields and the land to the north, consisting mainly of blocks of flats, built as both private and social housing, is often considered part of St Pancras (which includes King's Cross) rather than north-eastern Bloomsbury. The northern part of the informal quadrangular definitions are traditionally part of the parish and borough of St Pancras.
The eastern boundary is sometimes taken to be in the region of Southampton Row or further east on Grays Inn Road. The southern extent is taken to approximates to High Holborn or the thoroughfare formed by New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury Way and Theobalds Road.
On the west side, the traditional and various informal definitions of the area are all based on the ancient Tottenham Court Road. The differences between the formal and more recent understandings of the area (to the north and south), seem to derive from Bloomsbury having been commonly misconceived as being coterminous with the Bedford Estate.
The area is bisected north to south by the main road Southampton Row/Woburn Place, which has several large tourist hotels and links Tavistock Square and Russell Square - the district's focal points. The road runs from Euston Road in the north to High Holborn in the south.
The area west of Southampton Row/Woburn Place is notable for its concentration of academic establishments, museums, and formal squares. Here are the British Museum and the central departments and colleges of the University of London, including Birkbeck College, University College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the University of London's School of Advanced Study. The main north-south road in west Bloomsbury is Gower Street which is a one-way street running south from Euston Road towards Shaftesbury Avenue in Covent Garden, becoming Bloomsbury Street when it passes to the west of the British Museum.
East of Southampton Row/Woburn Place (an area not always described as part of Bloomsbury) are the Grade II listed Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping centre, and Coram's Fields children's recreation area. The area to the south is generally less residential, containing several hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, and gradually becomes more commercial in character as it approaches Holborn at Theobald's Road.
The Bloomsbury Festival was launched in 2006 when local resident Roma Backhouse was commissioned to mark the re-opening of the Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping area. The free festival is a celebration of the local area, partnering with galleries, libraries and museums, and achieved charitable status at the end of 2012. As of 2013, the Duchess of Bedford is a festival patron and Cathy Mager is the Festival Director.
Also different kinds of tutoring institutions like Bloomsbury International for English Language, Bloomsbury Law Tutors for law education, Skygate Tutors and Topmark Tutors Centre contributing to grow the private tutoring sector in Bloomsbury.
The British Museum, which first opened to the public in 1759 in Montagu House, is at the heart of Bloomsbury. At the centre of the museum the space around the former British Library Reading Room, which was filled with the concrete storage bunkers of the British Library, is today the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, an indoor square with a glass roof designed by British architect Norman Foster. It houses displays, a cinema, a shop, a cafe and a restaurant. Since 1998, the British Library has been located in a purpose-built building just outside the northern edge of Bloomsbury, in Euston Road.
Also in Bloomsbury is the Foundling Museum, close to Brunswick Square, which tells the story of the Foundling Hospital opened by Thomas Coram for unwanted children in Georgian London. The hospital, now demolished except for the Georgian colonnade, is today a playground and outdoor sports field for children, called Coram's Fields. It is also home to a small number of sheep. The nearby Lamb's Conduit Street is a pleasant thoroughfare with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in Shaftesbury Avenue, is the central church of the Baptist denomination. It was opened in 1848, having been built by Sir Samuel Moreton Peto MP, one of the great railway contractors of the age.
Gordon Square, surrounded by the history and archaeology departments of University College London, Birkbeck College's School of Arts, as well as the former homes of writer Virginia Woolf and economist John Maynard Keynes. This is where the Bloomsbury Group lived and met.
In February 2010, businesses were balloted on an expansion of the InHolborn Business Improvement District (BID) to include the southern part of Bloomsbury. Only businesses with a rateable value in excess of £60,000 could vote as only these would pay the BID levy. This expansion of the BID into Bloomsbury was supported by Camden Council. The proposal was passed and part of Bloomsbury was brought within the InHolborn BID.
Controversy was raised during this BID renewal when InHolborn proposed collecting Bloomsbury, St Giles and Holborn under the name of "Midtown", since it was seen as "too American". Businesses were informed about the BID proposals, but there was little consultation with residents or voluntary organisations. InHolborn produced a comprehensive business plan aimed at large businesses. Bloomsbury is now part of InMidtown BID with its 2010 to 2015 business plan and a stated aim to make the area "a quality environment in which to work and live, a vibrant area to visit, and a profitable place in which to do business".
Several London railway stations serve Bloomsbury. There are three London Underground stations in Bloomsbury:
Quietway 2 (Q2) - Running on segregated cycle track or residential streets, Q2 carries cyclists on an unbroken, signposted cycle route from Bloomsbury to Walthamstow. In Bloomsbury, the route begins to the east of Russell Square, leaving the area eastbound on Guildford Street. En route to Walthamstow, Q2 passes through Angel, Islington, London Fields and Hackney Central. TfL proposes that Q2 will head west from Bloomsbury in the future, towards East Acton.
J. M. Barrie (1860-1937), playwright and novelist, lived in Guilford Street and 8 Grenville Street when he first moved to London; this is where Barrie situated the Darlings' house in Peter Pan.
John Wyndham (1903-1969), lived at the Penn Club in Tavistock Square (1924-38) and then (except for 1943-46 army service) at the club's present address, 21-22 Bedford Place, off Russell Square, until his marriage in 1963 to Grace Isabel Wilson, who had lived in the next room at the club.