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Russell Square

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Central London’s second largest square, located to the north-east of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. The Russell family, earls of Bedford from 1550, gained possession of Bloomsbury by marriage into the Southampton family in 1669. The area remained mostly open fields until the mid-eighteenth century. The square was laid out in 1801 by Humphry Repton on land earlier called Southampton Fields, and subsequently Long Fields. James Burton was the designer of the original buildings that surrounded the square, only a few of which now remain. Built at the turn of the last century, the Russell Hotel is a chateau-style terracotta extravagance, regarded as the finest work of the architect Charles Fitzroy Doll. The hotel has recently completed a somewhat overdue refurbishment.

Russell Square Gardens were relaid in 2002, returning them to something like their appearance in the early 1800s by reproducing the original twisting paths and planting new lime trees. Low branches have been removed from some older trees and the park is now better lit and once again railed and gated. Some of the changes have been designed to deter gay men from using the gardens as a night-time cruising area.

Russell Square is the prime setting for the events of William Thackeray’s ‘novel without a hero’, Vanity Fair. TS Eliot worked for nearly forty years for the publishers Faber and Faber at 25 Russell Square, a building now occupied by the School of African and Oriental Studies.

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Russell Square Gardens

Postal district: WC1
Station: Piccadilly Line (Zone 1)

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