Home > London > East of Bloomsbury: Brunswick Square to Gray’s Inn Road

East of Bloomsbury: Brunswick Square to Gray’s Inn Road

This is the first of a series of posts that will gradually follow describing a walking tour following a Pevsner Perambulation in part of Bloomsbury, London

Cartwright Gardens

Cartwright Gardens, London WC1

A feature of Pevsner’s Buildings of England series are the ‘perambulations’ – the term must have been archaic even in the 1950s when Pevsner started writing, nevertheless subsequent editors have retained it. Following them can be a good way to get to know a place, and during lunchtimes I have followed the ones within reach of my office. Of these, this one (Holborn 5, in the London North volume) has the greatest variety, containing a mixture of the original early 19th Century private residential development, institutions and later 20th Century public housing.  

This is a part of London that will be familiar to many people visiting for business or leisure, being near to Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross stations and many of the main University of London sites in Bloomsbury. That said, the area covered contains no prominent landmarks, and will probably not be one that most people, even those who regularly pass by, know well.  

To me, it is its very ordinariness that makes it interesting. I am not an architectural historian; my interest is as a sometime geographer, to see how this area has come to be the way it is today and how its past still affects the present. Following Pevsner’s architectural tour is a way to do that.  

Despite Pevsner’s designation, most of this area was originally in the parish (and later Borough) of St Pancras, rather than Holborn, both eventually being absorbed into the London Borough of Camden. It covers the area between Woburn Place in the west and King’s Cross Road in the east, and from Euston Road to the north and Guilford Street to the south.  

Parish markers in Lamb's Conduit St, London WC1

Parish Markers in Lamb's Conduit St, London WC1


It traverses most of the ground within these limits, sometimes in following it we retrace our steps, other times the route loops around and we find ourselves opposite where we were a few minutes before. The distances are quite short, and sometimes what reads like a complicated set of directions is more or less “just over there”.  

Brunswick Centre sign

Brunswick Centre sign

This is quite an interesting area to explore, as it was first developed from just before 1800 and was fully built up by about 1840. Although some of it, especially in the southern part, was initially upmarket, by the end of the 19th century much of it had become filled by sub-standard and overcrowded working class housing. Slum clearances and wartime bomb damage were replaced by some large public housing developments through most of the 20th century. More recently, commercial uses have encroached on formerly residential properties. Despite the dramatic changes in London during the last decade or so, nearly all the buildings identified on the tour when the book was published in 1998 remain standing, and few, if any, obviously significant new ones have been built since then.  

When I quote Pevsner, most of the time of course I really mean the editor of this particular edition, Bridget Cherry. I expect in practice few of the Pevsner’s original comments from the 1950s have survived through to the 1998 version, which has been much expanded on the original, and those that do are often quoted directly.  

Most of the photos were taken during lunchtimes in the spring/summer months of 2008 to 2010, when the weather was fair (which wasn’t often). Some photos are better than others, as light conditions at lunchtime varied and were not always ideal for photographing north-facing buildings, which in a handful of cases simply could not be photographed. As anyone can tell I am not a professional photographer and just have a fairly simple camera. On the whole I haven’t made a point of going back to get a better photograph, so if the best one I’ve got isn’t quite straight or lacks contrast, I hope it is still good enough to illustrate the point. There are also many other photos available on the Geograph site.
  
More information


Tonbridge St, WC1 view to St Pancras clock tower

Tonbridge St, WC1 view to St Pancras clock tower

The perambulation is found on pp328-333 of London: North, I have also done my best to identify all buildings in other sections (i.e. public buildings) that are in the same area but are not necessarily mentioned in the text.  

This area falls mostly within Ordnance Survey Grid Square TQ3082.  

An older view of most of this area is within this section of Greenwood’s map of 1827.  

Also see the Finsbury West map from 1885.  

Finally, much of the area can be followed by Google’s street view, although there are some gaps. At the time of writing it looks like most of Google’s pictures date from summer 2008.

The tour starts at Russell Square Underground station.

Reference

Bridget Cherry and Nicolaus Pevsner (1998), London 4: North (Buildings of England), Yale University Press edition 2002.

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  1. July 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Hello,The photo of the St Pancras clock tower with the description *Tonbridge St, WC1 view to St Pancras clock tower* is not Tonbridge St.It is Whidborne St.

  1. July 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm
  2. October 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm
  3. December 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

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