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History of Tavistock Square

Prior to 1550 The land was part of the Tottenhall Manor. It then became the Bloomsbury estate, granted to the first Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley.
1738 On John Roque’s map of the cities of London and Westminster, the area which became Tavistock Square was still fields.
1792 Richard Horwood surveyed the northern part of the Bloomsbury estate and the site was still open fields.
1800 A basic grid of streets was established through the estate and recorded in the estate plan of 1800. This included Tavistock Square, which was not laid as an oval.
1803 James Burton constructed the buildings on the east side of Tavistock Square, including old Tavistock House (to the rear of the terraced houses).
1851-60 Tavistock House was the residence of Charles Dickens
1825 Richard Horwood’s plan shows the square at the beginning of the 19th century. The basic layout of the garden with a perimeter path is apparent, although it is not thought to have been constructed until 1825.
1825-6 The western side of Tavistock Square was designed by Lewis Vuillamy and built by G Anstey and JA Frampton.
1820-26 Thomas Cubitt began building the northern and southern sides to Tavistock Square, completing them in about 1826. Lewis Cubitt was the designer for his brother Thomas’ buildings.
1830 Greenwood’s map shows a basic layout for Tavistock Square Garden, with planted border between the perimeter path and boundary. Planting in the central lawn is minimal.
1830 The Bloomsbury Estate plan shows the gardens the same border and perimeter path. Tree planting is scattered with tighter groups at the centre and each corner of the lawn.
1849 St Pancras Parish plan confirms the formal path layout and shows four entrances at the centre of each side of Tavistock Square Gardens.
1866 The detailed Bedford Estate Plan provides, information about the planting is apparent. Trees are set at irregular intervals around the outer edge of the perimeter path and a new path crosses the gardens from east to west, with a central planted oval. A hedge lines the boundary railings. On the central lawns there are four semi-circular beds, two crescent shaped beds and several other small circular beds. Colourful displays of carpet bedding were very popular at this time and the numerous beds in Tavistock Square Gardens were probably planted that way.
1871 The first edition of the Ordnance Survey indicates the border between boundary and path is fully planted, the beds in the lawns are reduced in size and more kidney shaped, a dozen trees on the lawn are randomly planted and three seats have been positioned against the beds for the enjoyment of garden visitors. A building, presumably a gardener’s store, has been built within the planting bed in the north east corner. The oval path bulges at the southern end, for no apparent reason.
1894 The second edition of the Ordnance Survey shows less detail than the first. However, trees are shown lining the paths and boundary at reasonably regular intervals. A new path from the north gate joins to the central oval path and steps lead down from the south gate.
1916 The Ordnance Survey plan does not show any layout changes.
1904 The Stephens family of novelist Virginia (Woolf), her artist sister Vanessa (Bell) and their brothers, Thoby and Adrian, moved to adjacent Gordon Square and the Bloomsbury Group gradually formed around them and their friends, many of whom lived nearby.
1926 A memorial to the surgeon Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich Blake was constructed in the south east corner of the gardens. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
1928 The gardens were still private and were maintained by a committee of inhabitants of the square, from rates levied by St Pancras Borough Council
1938 The Ordnance Survey plan shows two tennis courts on the north western lawn and southern lawn.
1940 The railings, which had enclosed the square, were removed so that the iron could be reused for the war. This allowed direct public access from all sides. Some years later, a chain link fence was erected and the public were again excluded.
1940-44 During the Second World War several houses on the southern side of the square were damaged or destroyed by bombs. This included number 52 where Virginia and Leonard Woolf had lived and ran the Hogarth Press between 1924 and 1939.
1953 President Nehru of India planted a copper beech tree in the gardens. The tree was replaced in 1997.
1965 On 1 April, the London Borough of Camden was created and management of Tavistock Square was transferred to the new authority.
1967 A flowering cherry was planted at the north end of the square in August to commemorate the victims of Hiroshima.
1968 A memorial to Mahatma Gandhi by sculptor Fredda Brilliant was placed in the centre of the square.
1994 A large rough hewn boulder was placed at the northern end of the gardens on 15 May for International Conscientious Objectors’ Day as a memorial “to all those who established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill”.
2004 A memorial to Virginia Woolf was erected in the south west corner of the gardens on Saturday 26 June.
2005 Tavistock Square became internationally recognised when a double-decker bus was the target of a suicide bomber on 7 July as part of a terrorist strike. The bus exploded outside the British Medical Association and resulted in the loss of 13 lives.


Page last updated Mar 12, 2014 12:43 PM

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