Thursday, 3 February 2011

Phantoms, Physicians and Football, part 1

IIn June 2010, Stephen Pewsey of the British Museum contacted me to say that he was writing an article about the history of numbers 42 and 43 Russell Square, home to 'Phantoms, Physicians and Football'. The article was published in a British Museum newsletter and Stephen kindly sent me a copy for the blog and also for our Bloomsbury Project. It's a fantastically researched article (I do have a copy with references) so I'm reprinting it in full in 7 parts. Numbers 42 (right door in the photo above, taken at 1pm today by me) and 43 are now offices of the British Museum but have an extraordinary 200-year history. Here it is:

42 and 43 Russell Square are almost the only houses in the square surviving intact from the Fifth Duke of Bedford’s grand scheme to develop his Bloomsbury Estate around 1800. The houses in the south-west corner of Russell Square, numbers 38-43, are the only largely unaltered buildings in the square, and even No. 39 (which incorporates No. 40) is only a fa├žade, almost completely rebuilt following severe damage in the Blitz.

And what a history! Now the offices of the British Museum’s Visitor & Building Services Directorate, 42-43 were built as townhouses for the gentry, and in their time have been the home of a pioneering surgeon, a Lord Mayor of London, a Consul-General, a famous dancer, and a wealthy merchant who was a close friend of Dickens and Tennyson. These buildings also served as the headquarters of the Football Association, a homeopathic hospital, and the home of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, not to mention a wartime role as a cavalry brigade HQ.