London Parks & Gardens Trust

A Walk through Bloomsbury

Mecklenburgh Square

Mecklenburgh Square

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Directions

With your back to the gates of Coram's Fields, turn left and walk up Guilford Street. Turn left into Mecklenburgh Place, and walk on into Mecklenburgh Square.

Walk round the square, stopping opposite No. 21.

Continue round the square.

If you are visiting this garden on Open Garden Squares Weekend, be careful to check the opening times.

Description

Mecklenburgh Square is part of the Foundling Estate, one of two new residential squares planned in 1790 by Samuel Pepys Cockerell to provide rental income to support the Hospital and to keep the surrounding land airy and open.

The square was eventually designed by Joseph Kay, as Cockerell had fallen out with the Hospital governors. It was named after Queen Charlotte, who before her marriage was Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The garden was also laid out by Kay around 1810, and remains close to the original design, with mature planes and other ornamental trees, formal lawns and gravel paths.

Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962), who is commemorated with a blue plaque at No. 21, was clearly fond of the square, living at four different houses: first at number 17, then number 44 and after the war at number 26, before finally settling at number 21. A Christian Socialist and professor at the London School of Economics, Tawney was one of the leading left-wing thinkers of the 20th century, a critic of capitalism and a strong influence on Labour governments after the Second World War.

Syed Ahmed Kahn (1817-1898) was a Muslim reformer and scholar who also lived at number 21. As a magistrate in the service of the East India Company, Khan saved thousands of British lives during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and became the first Muslim to be knighted. He studied the English university system while living here, and founded a university at Aligarh on his return, which has educated many Indian Muslim leaders. He was a pioneer of Islamic modernism and social reform.

William Goodenough House now stands on the site of No. 37, where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived from 1939 to 1940. Further along at No. 44 there is a plaque to Hilda Doolittle, American Imagist poet and writer. Doolittle was married to novelist Richard Aldington, whose mistress, an American called Dorothy Yorke, lived in another part of the house. In 1917 Dorothy had her friend D.H. Lawrence to stay, who wrote part of the novel Women in Love while he was here. Also at No. 44, the crime writer Dorothy L. Sayers lived from 1918 to 1921, where she created her most famous character, Lord Peter Wimsey.