Posted by: hiddenlondon | May 9, 2012

London Villages – Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is perhaps best known to tourists for its literary heritage and as home to the British Museum. It is also, however, an area with an outstanding cultural vitality and residents who are bringing new life and a genuine village atmostphere to its imposing streets and squares.

This central district is clearly defined, edged by Euston Road, Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn and Judd Street and Hunter Street. Within these borders, there is something for everyone with the grandeur of the British Museum, the opulence of expensive hotels, the chic fashion of Lambs Conduit Street and the more homely feel of Marchmont Street.

Undoubtedly the area was made famous in the early 20th Century by the Bloomsbury Group whose intellectual gossip centred on the home of Virginia Woolf at 51 Gordon Square and included E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Elliot and Vanessa Bell. The Group sought to advance their cultural agenda through mutual support, but also indulged in pretty risque behaviour which made them rather unpopular with the general public at the time!

But the history of the area goes right back to the ancient village of Lomesbury which had seen a few manor houses built there by the middle ages, including Tottenham Court. The 17th Century saw a good deal of development, such as Bloomsbury Square and in the 18th and 19th Centuries hospitals and the university opened up.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 to promote understanding through the arts, natural history and science and is now one of the Capital’s most popular sites for tourists and Londoners alike. It houses a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures in one of Britain’s architectural landmarks. For details on current events and exhibitions, see the website.

The very latest in culture is also alive and well inBloomsbury.  There is film at the art house Renoir Cinema inBrunswick Square, alternative arts at the Horse Hospital in Colonnade, and humour at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street.

There is a surprising amount of green space for such a central location. Russell Square with its café and water fountain is popular and attractive, along with both Brunswick and Bloomsbury Squares and St Georges Gardens.  Coram’s Fields is an unusual addition as a wonderful, children-only park.

And if you are still hankering after the literary life, the area does still retain a collection of bookshops, including Persephone Books.

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