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Bloomsbury’s Bigwigs: Remembering the Icons Who Walked These Streets

‘Bloomsbury’. The very word means something to every person reading this. For some of us, it is a school we have attended for a few weeks (or even a few months!). For others, it is where we have made international friendships, or taken our first steps towards living abroad. However, as the blue plaques on buildings in the area remind us, we at Bloomsbury International are in no way the only famous (?!) people to have been here. Indeed, throughout history, the area of Bloomsbury has been home to many prolific authors, musicians, and artists, who were inspired by the area, where they also formed important friendships. In fact, if you care to design your own walking-tour, you can find the past homes of some of its most notable residents. Here are a few to get you started:

1) J.M. Barrie: The writer who created ‘Peter Pan’ initially lived at Guilford Street and 8 Grenville Street. In his novel, Barrie imaged Bloomsbury to be the location of the Darlings’ home, where the character Peter Pan first met Wendy. If you wander along Grenville Street, you can find a plaque marking where Barrie once lived.
Handy Hint: If you don’t know much about ‘Peter Pan’, Disney adapted Barrie’s novel 1953, and it’s a quick and easy way to find out the story of this British children’s classic.

2) Charles Darwin: If you have a look around, you should find a plaque dedicated to ‘Charles Darwin Naturalist’, where he rented a house at 12 Upper Gower Street in 1838. Much of Darwin’s theory of natural selection was thought up while he lived in this house.

3) Charles Dickens: Dickens, considered by some to be one of the greatest English writers resided at multiple locations in the Bloomsbury area, including at 14 Great Russell Street, Tavistock Square, and 48 Doughty Street. Today, in Holborn, there is a Dickens Museum at his former Doughty Street residence, which is where he wrote his works ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ – definitely worth a visit!

4) John Maynard Keynes: This British Economist lived for 30 years at Gordon Square, where a plaque marks his residence at number 46. Keynes was a member of the ‘Bloomsbury Group’, a group of English intellectuals, writers, and artists who lived, studied, or worked near Bloomsbury in the early 20th Century. At 51 Gordon Square there is an additional plaque commemorating the Bloomsbury Group.

5) Bob Marley: While not a long-standing resident of Bloomsbury, the Jamaican musician Bob Marley lived at 34 Ridgemount Gardens for several weeks in 1972.

6) Virginia Woolf: Another member of the Bloomsbury Group, Virginia Woolf, a popular author lived at several locations in Bloomsbury, including at 29 Fitzroy Square, Brunswick Square, and at 52 Tavistock Square where she wrote her novels ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ and ‘To The Lighthouse’. However, it was when she moved to 46 Gordon Square that she became involved with the Bloomsbury Group and embraced the area of Bloomsbury, which she has written about as a place where she believed a person could ‘bloom’ like a flower.

7) William Butler Yeats: The Irish poet Yeats lived at 5 Woburn Walk from 1895 – 1919 (then known as 18 Woburn Buildings). The area was not at all fashionable at the time, though today it is a popular pedestrian street. Apparently, Yeats used to keep an open house every Monday evening, where the famous American poet, Ezra Pound often visited and would hand out Yeats’s wine and cigars as if it was his own house!

While these are only a few of the residents who have walked the streets we walk today, as you enjoy your time at Bloomsbury International, we hope that you too explore the area; and as you explore you make friends as long-lasting as those made by Yeats or Keynes, that like Woolf you find happiness in being here, and that like Darwin or Dickens or Marley you discover the same inspiration to remember and to be remembered by Bloomsbury for years to come.

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