Sculptures

It’s notable that of all the statues scattered around the Bloomsbury squares, only two are of politicians, Charles James Fox in Bloomsbury Square and Mahatma Gandhi in Tavistock Square.

All but one of the people celebrated have local connections.

The exception is Fox, the radical late 18th century Whig politician, but he was a special case,

Charles James Fox, Whig politician

because the Bedford family, who owned Bloomsbury, were supporters of the same party.

5th Duke of Bedford

Now, Fox’s statue and the contemporary statue of the Fifth Duke of Bedford, the only statue in Russell Square, face each other along Bedford Place, the street which runs between the two squares.

Fox and the Duke of Bedford face to face

Gandhi, of course, has a local connection, having studied at London University for some three years before being called to the Bar.

Gandhi in Tavistock Square

Together with Gandhi in Tavistock Square are Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), the modernist author and member of the literary and artistic Bloomsbury Group, who lived in various of the Bloomsbury Squares,

Virginia Woolf

and Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake (1865–1925), a pioneering woman physician and surgeon in nearby hospitals  (and the British Medical Association is in Tavistock Square), whose bust looks both into and out of the square.

Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake

Also in the square is the large stone memorial  to conscientious objectors.

Conscientious objectors memorial

Conscientious objectors memorial

Gordon Square has a sculpture of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was born in Calcutta, but briefly studied law at University College London.

Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore

The most recent of all the sculptures is also in Gordon Square. The bust of  Noor Inayat Khan by Karen Newman, is believed to be the first of an Asian woman in Britain. Princess Anne unveiled the bust on 8 November 2012.  Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow, lived as a child in London and France, and in 1942 was living again with her family in Taviton Street, just off Gordon Square.  She was in training as a Special Operations Executive secret agent, known as Nora Baker, before being sent in 1943  into Nazi-occupied France as a radio operator. In France she was betrayed and finally was shot in September 1944 with three other female agents at Dachau. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan

Queen Charlotte, whose statue is in Queen Square, also had a local connection. Her husband George III lodged in Queen Square during periods of his madness and she attempted to look after him there. She has no statue in the square named after her –Mecklenburg Square (she was Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz)-, just as her daughter-in-law, Queen Caroline (of Brunswick) , has no statue in the eponymous Brunswick Square.

Queen Charlotte, wife of George III

Though not in the gardens of  Brunswick Square, there is a statue of  Captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751), the founder of the Foundling Hospital, just outside, beside the Foundling Museum.

Captain Thomas Coram

Nearby, on the railings, is a small lost mitten by the artist Tracy Emin, reflecting childhood and loss, and recalling all the tiny tokens left by unhappy mothers entrusting the children they could not care for to the former Foundling Hospital, but hoping they would recognise their child by the token if they were able to reclaim them in the future.

Tracy Emin's mitten

Tracy Emin’s mitten

Hidden in the shrubbery at the south end of Woburn Square is a modern sculpture (1999) by Lydia Kapinska of an ancient imaginary creature, a Green Man, with no local connections at all! But there is a relevant quotation from the Waves by Virginia Woolf to accompany it: My roots go down to the depths of the world… I am as green as a yew tree in the shade of the hedge…

The Green Man

Other objects of interest include the globe in Torrington Square just outside Birkbeck , commemorating 150 years of the University of London External System in 2008.

The symbolic globe in Torrington Square

In Bloomsbury Square there is an engraved plaque in the central paving that shows the first Bloomsbury square as it would have looked in John Evelyn’s time, when it was called Southampton Square, with a quotation from his diary in 1665: Dined at my Lord Treasurers the Earle of Southampton in Blomesbury, where he was building a noble square or piazza, a little towne.

The plaque in the centre of Bloomsbury Square

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