Russell Square Gardens * (Camden)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
By late C17th much land in London was owned by the Russell family and their Bloomsbury Estate was developed from 1660s-1850s, becoming part of the Bedford Estate in 1723. Russell Square was laid out by Humphry Repton in 1800, with a broad perimeter walk, hedged to screen it from the street; a large lawn intersected by a broad walk under 2 rows of lime trees, the statue of Francis Russell, Duke of Bedford (1809) on the south; 2 narrower walks intersecting the gardens; and in the centre a shelter around which were 4 compartments, each treated in a different way. Repton's layout largely remained until 1959-60 when there was extensive replanting, a large paved area with 3 fountains in the centre, and a Tea House. In 2000-2 re-landscaping echoing Repton's designs was undertaken, together with a new fountain and refreshment kiosk.
- Site location:
- Russell Square
- WC1B 4JA
- What 3 Words:
- Type of site:
- Garden Square, Public Gardens
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- 7am - dusk
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 19 times, most recently in 2017.
- Special conditions:
- café; toilets
- For news and events see Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens website: www.bloomsburysquares.org.uk
- Public transport:
- Tube: Russell Square (Piccadilly). Bus: 7, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188.
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.camden.gov.uk
Full Site Description
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
The Russell family owned much land in London by the late C17th, including the area now bounded by Tottenham Court Road to the west, New Oxford Street to the south, Euston Road to the north and Woburn Place and Southampton Row to the east. The Bloomsbury Estate was developed from the 1660s to 1850s, in the first phase of which Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street were laid out. In 1723 the estate became part of the Bedford Estate. Founded by the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1799, Russell Square was originally laid out by Humphry Repton in 1800. Building agreements for Russell Square were granted in 1801 and houses designed by James Burton largely completed by 1804. Repton's designs consisted of a broad perimeter walk with privet and hornbeam hedge clipped to 6ft to screen the walk from the street. A large area of lawn was intersected by a bulb-shaped broad walk under two rows of lime trees, to be clipped to form a 'cloister-like walk' which started and ended at Sir Richard Westmacott's bronze statue on a granite pedestal of Francis Russell, Duke of Bedford, dated 1809 on the south side of the square. The Duke is shown in Roman attire, surrounded by groups of allegorical figures connected with agriculture. Two narrower walks intersected the gardens, bow-shaped and leading from the north east to south east corner and the north-west to south-west corner, with the centre of the gardens divided into four compartments, which Repton treated in different ways: a grove of trees near the statue, flowers and shrubs in different arrangements in the other three. A shelter was at the centre of the square with four low covered seats and four open seats covered with trellis and climbing plants, the seats concealing a gardener's shed in a courtyard. Outside the centre were lawns.
The layout remained much as Repton planned until 1959-60 when the Borough of Holborn undertook extensive replanting, put in a large paved area with three large fountains in the centre of the square, and a Tea House in the north east quarter. On the north side of the square is a Cabman's Shelter of 1897, restored 1987. Now the responsibility of LB Camden, re-landscaping based on Repton's design has been undertaken in 2000/2002 funded by a £1.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and Camden's Urban Parks Programme. Restoration work was undertaken by Land Use Consultants. The mid C20th fountains have been demolished and a new fountain commissioned from Land Use Consultants with a 30-foot jet. The old fountains had been out of action on and off for some 20 years. Refurbishment also included an enlarged and redesigned refreshment kiosk, and restoration of the statue of the Duke of Bedford. The planting including pergola and path layout echoing Repton's designs, while not replicating it entirely. Among the surrounding buildings is the Russell Hotel built in 1892-98 by Charles Fitzroy Doll, surveyor of the Bedford Estate.
The Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens was set up in 2012 as a forum for the local gardens, with a website www.bloomsburysquares.org.uk, which acts as a point of access for sharing activities, events and concerns. The gardens within the Association are: Argyle, Bedford, Bloomsbury, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Gordon, Mecklenburgh, Regent, Russell, Tavistock, Torrington and Woburn Squares (q.q.v.), and Marchmont Community Garden.
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.
NHLE Register: H Repton, 'Landscape Gardening', 1840 ed. J C Loudon; E B Chancellor, 'The History of the Squares of London', 1907; N Pevsner 'London except . . . Westminster', 1952; G Carter, P Goode, K Laurie 'Humphry Repton', 1982; D J Olsen, 'Town Planning in London', 1984 ed.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ300819 (530106,181973)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Bedford Estates, leased to LB Camden
- Site management:
- Parks & Open Spaces, Leisure & Community Services
- Humphry Repton
- Listed structures:
- LBII*: Russell Hotel and attached railings with piers and lamps. LBII: Statue of 5th Duke of Bedford; Cabman's Shelter; Nos.21-24 (Consecutive) and attached railings; Nos.25-29 (Consecutive) and attached railings and lamp-holder; No.30 Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain & Ireland and attached railings; Nos.38-43 (Consecutive) and attached railings; Nos.44-49 (Consecutive) and attached railings; Nos.52-60 (Consecutive) and attached railings
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- NHLE grade:
- Grade II
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
- On Local List:
- In Conservation Area:
- Conservation Area name:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Not known
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Local Importance
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Yes - Area of Special Character: Central London Area
- Other LA designation:
- Public Open Space (Local). London Squares Preservation Act of 1931
Russell Square Gardens, June 2008. Photo: S Williams
Click a photo to enlarge.
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