Home > London > East of Bloomsbury, Part 1: Around Brunswick Square

East of Bloomsbury, Part 1: Around Brunswick Square

This is the first part of a walking tour following a Pevsner Perambulation in part of Bloomsbury, London. See the introduction for fuller details; page references are to the Pevsner Buildings of England series volume London 4: North.

The tour starts at Russell Square Underground station. If arriving by train, come out of the exit and turn right into Bernard Street. Diagonally opposite a bit further along looms the Brunswick Centre, of which more in a moment. First, we cross over the road to look at the station itself, not noticed by Pevsner, dating from 1906 with red glazed brick typical of Underground stations of this period.

Russell Square Underground Station

Russell Square Underground Station

12-28 Bernard St, London WC1

12-28 Bernard St, London WC1

12-28 Bernard Street are immediately beside the station, a neat brick terrace of 1802 from the original development of this area. These are typical of the streets round about here; clearly they are now all owned by the same organisation, presumably the University, and it looks as if they have all been restored together at some point. Certainly the doorways and windows are all nicely scrubbed.


International Hall, Brunswick Square

International Hall, Brunswick Square

Continuing along Bernard St which becomes the southern side of Brunswick Square, we find International Hall, a University Hall of Residence (see p281), a large uninteresting slab built between 1958 and 1967 which more or less fills that side of the square.


Foundling Hospital Museum

Foundling Hospital Museum, Brunswick Square

Brunswick Square isn’t really a square, in the usual urban sense, as the east side is missing. I assume there never have been buildings on this side, as it was where the Foundling Hospital previously stood, and is now Coram’s Field. The buildings now surrounding the gardens in its centre are now so unalike that it has lost any sense of unity. We walk through the gardens to the opposite (north) side. In the corner is the Foundling Hospital Museum, a neat enough building of 1937 but which is really picked out for the survival within of some furnishings from the original Hospital. I haven’t been inside. In front of it stands a statue of the founder, Thomas Coram.

Thomas Coram statue

Statue of Thomas Coram, Brunswick Square

School of Pharmacy

School of Pharmacy, Brunswick Square

Immediately next to the Foundling Museum filling the rest of the north side of the square is the large bulk of the School of Pharmacy (see p.280), “grimly symmetrical” according to Pevsner. Personally, I didn’t find it the most grim building on the tour.

Brunswick Centre from Brunswick Square

Having ignored it until now, it is time to address the Brunswick Centre which dominates the west side of the square. This is a huge concrete fortress built between 1968-72, and quite why anybody thought this would enhance the area visually I have no idea. Pevsner has a lot to say about this building, but what he fails to say is that it is an ugly concrete lump. A refurbishment programme started in 1998 after Pevsner was published and seems to have softened it a little. It presents its most brutal face to the square, including the main entrance, which stands out prominently, if starkly.

Brunswick Centre piazza

Brunswick Centre piazza

We now go through the entrance in the centre (by the cinema entrance) to the central piazza, which is rather more humane, being full of shops at the (raised) ground level with flats above and is where the cascade design at higher levels can be best appreciated. The Brunswick Centre’s own website gives additional views (including some aerial ones) and background information.

Marchmont St Brunswick Centre

Brunswick Centre, Marchmont Street side

Leaving via the NW corner (by Waitrose) into gives us a chance to look at the side adjoining Marchmont St. This face gives another good view of the stepped design of the upper levels and the greenhouse-style windows which soften the overall harshness of the concrete.

Marchmont Street

Marchmont Street

Immediately opposite the exit from the Brunswick Centre is a terrace on the west side of Marchmont St, stretching northwards. This is part of the original development of the early 1800s and provides a contrast to what we have seen; Pevsner invites us to “ponder” on it.

The next section of the tour continues in Herbrand St, which is reached via Coram St, opposite the exit from the Brunswick Centre.

(Link updated 18/10/2011)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: