Ham & High

London A-Z - Bloomsbury

The area of Bloomsbury is roughly defined as the square bounded by Euston Road to the north, Grays Inn Road to the east, High Holborn to the south and Tottenham Court Road to the west. Grays Inn Road is home to the world famous National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, though it has to be said they did little for my snoring.

In the early 20th Century the area was best known for its association with the Bloomsbury Group, a clever of intellectuals (I believe that's the collective noun). They lived in squares, loved in triangles and would often gather at The Lamb on Lamb Conduits Street. Members included bi-polar scribestress Virginia Woolf, fiscal philanderer John Maynard Keynes, and the endlessly wristed Lytton Strachey. The group disbanded in the early 1930s after either running out of debatable topics or drowning themselves.

As a district Bloomsbury is best explored on foot or by jetpack. Its numerous pubs, alleyways and Georgian terraces are all waiting to be discovered, though not literally. Celebrated for its squares, they include the large and square Bedford Square, the small and circular Russell Square, and Bloomsbury Square, fashioned in the shape of Harry Potter.

Bloomsbury is an area noted for handing out artistic licenses and is awash with eminence. Charles Dickens lived at 48 Doughty Street and although he has since moved, a museum stands in his name. Charles Darwin spent years monkeying around at 110 Gower Street, and an earnest Oscar Wilde passed his final night in England on Russell Square. I myself lived in Bloomsbury until I was three. My earliest memory is being pushed around Russell Square by my mother, though I've since learnt to stand up to bullies.

Tottenham Court Road, once a rural lane lined by cow sheds, is now London's electrical Mecca. It is rumoured you can buy anything here. This is especially true of Spearmint Rhinos, according to my pal Tainted Alan. Here on TCR you will also find the headquarters for Time Out, the magazine famous for telling people where to go, in no uncertain terms.

The top right-hand corner of Bloomsbury takes in Kings Cross, one of London's friendliest neighbourhoods. Highlights include robbing, stabbing and prostitution. Dickens would have been proud.

© copyright 2008 Saul Wordsworth
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