The name was originally “Blemondisberi” (which means the “bury” or manor of Blemond) after a 13th century lord of the manor, William Blemond.
The earls of Southampton became lords of the manor in the 16th century and the Fourth Earl built Southampton House there in 1660. His daughter inherited Bloomsbury and married the Earl of Bedford and Marquess of Tavistock. While the Fifth Duke was a child, his mother Gertrude Gower developed Bedford Square and Gower Street. The Sixth Duke let most of the available land to James Burton and Thomas Cubit for development. Grays Inn and most of the squares of Bloomsbury are the result of this period of work. Later much of the residential area was taken over by the British Museum and London University.
Bloomsbury was one of the first areas of London to be developed in the 19th century and there are still terraces of Georgian and early Victorian houses in the rather severe flat-fronted, brick-faced style of the time. Most of these have long been used as offices, or as part of the London University, but many are now being converted back into houses and flats.
Bloomsbury is the area from Woburn Place to Tottenham Court Road, with Russell Square at its heart. (“Mid Town” is often used to describe this area as far west as Oxford Street.) Woburn Place, Southampton Row, Russell Square and many adjoining streets contain big mansion blocks such as Endsleigh Court on Woburn Place, Bedford Court Mansions, and Ridgemount Gardens. Some mansion blocks are still council owned.
The area between the British Museum and Holborn is the area to look for flats converted from attractive buildings, often above shops, but also in mansion blocks such as in Red Lion Street . East of Woburn Place, there are several distinct areas. Below Guilford Street this area is dominated by Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. This is part of what was originally the Rugby School Estate. This area has many quiet streets, including the attractive Lambs Conduit Street and Queen Square, where there are 20th century flat blocks. Dickens used to live in Doughty Street, which still contains some of the oldest terraces of Georgian buildings in London, with Doughty Mews behind. There are orginal Georgian houses in Guilford Street and Landsdowne Terrace. Once you reach Gray’s Inn Road you are back to the business area, but there are large houses and converted flats in Calthorpe Street and nearby streets heading towards Farringdon Road.
Immediately above Guilford Street is an altogether busier area. The main residential focus here is the Brunswick Centre built on Marchmont Street in the 1970s in a modernistic (of the time) design. Apart from flats, it contains a cinema, shops and cafes. It has recently been substantially refurbished. Surrounding streets include converted Georgian and Victorian houses, some still hotels, but there are many new flats in Tavistock Place. Further north towards St Pancras, there are a lot of council blocks, although again with a sprinkling of Georgian and early Victorian terraces. There are large mansion blocks in Judd Street including Queen Alexandra mansions and Clare Court. Mecklenburgh Square is a secluded tree-lined square with attractive houses looking onto Coram’s Fields.