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Women's History Walk, Bloomsbury

Now with helpful links to further information on individuals, institutions, and places

This was originally planned as a summer evening meeting activity for the London Women's History Network. Unfortunately, it rained, and we spent most of the evening in Jacques Wine Bar. This would still make a nice long light evening's stroll among the leafy squares of Bloomsbury for the researcher who has been cooped up all day in the British Library, Wellcome Library, Friends' House and adjacent institutions.

I don't have any proprietorial feelings about this walk, which was based on a collation of information from various sources, including notes from Emma Milliken, and is being occasionally updated as I acquire new information. Please feel free to add, adapt and emend, though some acknowledgment, and feedback, would be appreciated. Thanks to everyone who has contributed additional information, especially David Doughan, and members of VICTORIA: The Electronic Conference for Victorian Studies.

For further information on Bloomsbury and its history, see this Bloomsbury Project website

Women in 19th Century Bloomsbury

For another area that has a women's walk, and already has Pink Plaques for memorable women who lived in the area, Highgate Pink Plaque Project: though it is a pity to see that it does not include some of the eminment women whose final resting place was Highgate Cemetery, e.g. George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Claudia Jones.

Map of route

Friends House (opposite Euston Station): important role of women Quakers; texts of women from the C17th; women as preachers; Elizabeth Fry; involvement in Anti-Slavery, Anti-Contagious Diseases Acts campaigns, and Peace

Endsleigh St: Dorothy Richardson. Where she lived in an attic at £1 pw while working as a dental receptionist and doing a large amount of miscellaneous writing. Atmospheric descriptions in Pilgrimage

Gordon Square:

Lady Jane Strachey 1840-1928; President of Women's Local Government Society, member of Committee of National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies; one of the original subscribers to Girton College

No 9 Charlotte Mew, poet and writer: moved there aged 19. Family history of insanity, may have kept her from marriage, though some evidence that she was more interested in women. (Lived with Anne Monro, 6 Hogarth Studios, 64 Charlotte Street, W1, other side of Tottenham Court Road). Committed suicide in 1928 by drinking disinfectant.

No 46: home of Vanessa, Virginia and Adrian Stephen, 1905-7; home of V Bell after her marriage to Clive Bell

No 50 where Bloomsbury Group met

Dora Carrington lived at 37 and 41 during the years 1912-1923, also in Gower St (no 3) and Ridgemount Gdns (102)

Torrington Square: Christina Rossetti once lived at no 30. There was formerly a memorial to her by Burne-Jones in Christ Church, Woburn Square, but the church is no longer standing and the memorial is now in All Saints Church, Margaret Street W1 (Westminster).

Late in 1892 Charlotte Stopes moved into rooms at 31 Torrington Square with her husband Henry, a location in walking distance of the British Museum for her researches into the history of women's legal status and her Shakespearean studies. Also handy for her involvement with the women's movement generally. Although she gave up the rooms in 1895 as an economy measure she renewed the lease shortly afterwards.

University College London:

In 1868 the London Ladies Educational Association ran extra-mural lectures in conjunction with UCL, in 1878 it admitted women on the same terms as men, in 1882 establishing a female hall of residence

The first woman professor was Dame Kathleen Lonsdale 1903-71, a highly distinguished crystallographer, Quaker, war-resister, one of first 2 women FRS 1945, first women President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science

The Chair of Egyptology was founded under the will of the novelist and Egyptologist Amelia Edwards, 1831-1892. Among the distinguished scholars who worked in the department was Margaret Murray, who was an Egyptologist of note, wrote an autobiography when she was a hundred, entitled My First Hundred Years, but is probably best known for her influential views on witchcraft, though some of the theories she developed from her revisioning of witchcraft as the residue of ancient goddess worship were somewhat eccentric.

Among the other women of distinction associated with UCL was Marie Stopes, who took a first class degree in botany in the record time of 2 years in 1902, and later became a lecturer in paleobotany, 1911.

UCL now incorporates the Slade School of Art, where Gwen John and Dora Carrington trained

Gower Street:

No 2 Millicent Garrett Fawcett sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Married Henry Fawcett, a blind radical politician, and acted as his secretary, gaining useful experience of political activity. Leading figure in constitutional wing of suffrage movement. Her sister Agnes Garrett and cousin Rhoda Garrett also lived at this address, and it was the HQ of their interior design company (the first to be run by women) from c. 1884

No 10 Lady Ottoline Morrell

No 14 Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) actress (and also in Grafton Way)

No 84 Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), writer (short stories, theory of aesthetics), lived here during the 1880s

Chenies Street:

Fanny Burney (1752-1840), novelist, resided at no 23, 1812-1813

Anna Jameson 1794-1880, born in Dublin, traveled in Germany and Canada. writer, art critic, anti-slavery campaigner and worker for women's rights. Had number of relationships with other women, including the actress Fanny Kemble. A central figure in mid-Victorian women's rights circles, such as the Langham Place Group. Influenced a group of slightly younger women involved with the Englishwoman's Journal. Lived here with her husband in 1820s

The Ladies Residential Chambers. established by Agnes Garrett, q.v., was opened here in 1889. The project was extended into Huntley Street in 1896.

Store Street: Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Women here 1792

Bedford Square:

Developed (by architect Thomas Laverton) under the direction of Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower, widow of the 4th Duke of Bedford, in 1775. The ornamental keystones of the archways around the doors are made from 'Coade Stone', manufactured at the Lambeth factory of Eleanor Coade (d. 1796). Some of the interiors (unfortunately not open to the public) have ceilings painted by Angelica Kauffmann, 1741-1807.

Agnes Strickland, 1796-1874 one of a group of literary sisters, a women's history forebear; wrote Monody Upon the Death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1817, but principally famous for having written Lives of the Queens of England, with her sister Elizabeth. Based on research in State Papers they also include informal details and 'gossip', were a great popular success and used as a source ever since. They were published under her name as Elizabeth shunned publicity. Also produced Letters of Mary Queen of Scots.

Bedford Ladies College was originally founded here by Elizabeth Jesser Reid in 1849.

Lady Ottoline Morrell 1873-1938: hostess, pacificist, and patron. No 44.

Adeline Place, formerly Caroline St; Anna Letitia Barbauld lived here in 1787

Great Russell Street: British Museum: there is a statue of Anne Seymour Damer, 1749-1828 far end of the King's Library. Of an aristocratic family, her husband ran up debts and shot himself. She became a sculptor, also wrote novels, and had a love affair with Mary Berry, another woman of letters, which was the subject of gossip by Mrs Thrale, Dr Johnson's friend. Also, all the numerous women who studied in the British Museum Reading Room before it became the British Library, and then moved.

Elizabeth Inchbald lived in lodgings in Great Russell Street around 1788/9.

Bloomsbury Square:

no 40 Gertrude Stein lived here with her brother Leo, 1902-2 and hated it.

Nos 4 and 5: these were the offices of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology from 1924. This body attracted a number of women who were interested in discussing issues around sexuality, including Stella Browne, Cicely Hamilton, Norah March, Nurse Elizabeth Daniels, and a number of women doctors.

Queen Square:

Mary Ward Centre: Mrs Humphry Ward, the late Victorian author is now principally remembered for her opposition to the suffrage movement, but in spite of that she was keen on improving women's education, for example supporting the foundation of Somerville College Oxford, and also encouraged women's participation in local government and public service. What is now Mary Ward House was founded by her as an initiative in the late Victorian settlement movement, in which members of the middle class would go and live in a slum area and organise improving cultural facilities. Her fellow-committee members included Frances Power Cobbe and the Dowager Countess Russell and Mary Ward put a lot of effort into soliciting financial support in order to set it on a firm footing. Its most remarkable achievement was its work with playschemes for local children in the evenings, weekends and school holidays, supplemented by a country holiday fund and a special school for invalid children.

Fanny Burney, the novelist, as a young woman, 1770-1774, lived in a house where the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases now stands

Also before the building of the National Hospital, the William Morris workshop was located here,1865-1881: several female relatives and associates of Morris were craftworkers.

No 29, also now part of the National Hospital, site of the Working Women's College founded in Oct 1864 by Elizabeth Malleson (1828-1916) (nee Whitehead: omitted 'obey' when she got married) and Barbara Bodichon (1827-91) nee Leigh Smith, friend of George Eliot and original of Romola (father supplied her with an independent income), leading C19th feminist campaigner. The college offered evening classes in a wide range of subjects at very low charges, and Malleson persuaded university-trained teachers to volunteer their services for instruction. She also provided "preparatory classes" for those who could not yet read or write. Women who taught there included Octavia Hill, Elizabeth Garrett (Anderson), Frances Power Cobbe, and Florence Fenwick Miller. In 1874 it amalgamated with the Working Men's College, then in Great Ormond St. (Particular thanks to Rosemary Van Arsdel and Sally Mitchell for this information)

In 1860 the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women hired rooms to teach law-copying and book-keeping, and in the 1870s the College for Men and Women, founded in the early 1860s, and the Froebel Society (kindergarten method) held classes there.

One of the few women-only Turkish baths was in Queen Square between 1930 and 1962

Passing by Lamb's Conduit St, why not take a detour to Persephone Books, which has republished so much rediscovered fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women.

Doughty Mews: The Egypt Exploration Society, founded as the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882 by Amelia Edwards. Visited Egypt more or less by chance aged 43, learn hieroglyphics and became a leading British Egyptologist

Doughty Street:

No 30 Charlotte Mew born here and lived there until aged 19.

No 38: Evelyn Sharp, journalist, suffragette, pacifist, children's writer and 'rebel woman' took a flat here in 1914; moving further down the road to 16 John St the following year, and living in the area, with a move to Guilford St in 1932, until her marriage in 1933.

Nos ? 29 or 49: Fellowship Houses set up by the Fellowship of the New Life as a cooperative venture. Edith Lees (1861-1916), was the secretary, 1891, and later wrote a novel about the experience which concluded that 'Fellowship is Hell'. Through the Fellowship she met Edward Carpenter, Ramsay Macdonald, and Havelock Ellis, whom she married in 1892. This became an open marriage in which she was able to enjoy her relationships with other women, an aspect of her character which influenced Ellis in his writings on Sexual Inversion. The deterioration of health which led to her premature death in 1916 caused both of them considerable anguish. She wrote novels, plays, and essays on contemporary subjects, lectured successfully, was a member of the WSPU and involved in the Freewoman discussion circles.

Nos 52 and 58 Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby shared flats here early in the 1920s when they were trying to make their way as writers in London. Holtby's first novel, Anderby Wold, was actually published while they were living here.

E M Delafield kept a flat at no 57 as a pied-a-terre.It figures in her 'Provincial Lady' books, in particular, The Provincial Lady Goes Further. .

Edith Summerskill (Baroness Summerskill) Labour politician, medical woman and feminist, born here

Mecklenburgh St:

No 11 Jane Ellen Harrison 1850-1928. Major classical scholar. Undermined the idea of the Greeks as pinnacles of rationalism--the ritual and pagan basis of Greek religion, art, and thought--emphasized the important of the pre-existing cult of the Great Mother. Lived with her companion Hope Mirrlees here, they both translated Russian works, and associated with Bloomsbury.

Mecklenburgh Square:

See: Francesca Wade, Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars 2020 for more on several of the women who lived in and around this square.

no 20, home of Eileen Power (1889-1940), economic and social historian, first woman professor of economic history, at London School of Economics, which she shared with her old Girton friend MG Beard, head of Crofton Grange School, from shortly after her initial appointment to LSE in 1921. Continued to use it as her London base following the establishment of her matrimonial home in Cambridge when her husband MM Postan was appointed to a chair there in 1937 shortly after their marriage.

pre-1914 no 34 was shared by the Women's Trade Union League, the National Anti-Sweating League and the People's Suffrage Federation. This may have been the address where Virginia Stephen addressed envelopes for the PSF, as fictionally immortalised by Mary Datchet in Night and Day

no 44 Hilda Doolittle ('HD') (1886-1961), poet, lived here 1917-1918. Dorothy Sayers, crime writer, translator of Dante, and writer on assorted subjects including theology, lived here 1920-21 (also, 1921-28, slightly further south at 24 Great James St, off Theobald's Road: if you fancy making the detour, this is, as David Doughan points out, very near the former location of the Sybil Campbell Library (British Federation of Women Graduates, formerly British Federation of University Women. Also resident in Great James St, at no 33, 1934-1939, was the lesbian Irish novelist Kate O'Brien.)

The artist Gwen Raverat, best-known for her woodcuts, also for her memoir Period Piece, about growing up in late-Victorian/Edwardian Cambridge as a Darwin, lived for a while in the interwar years in Caroline Place (no longer in existence), just off Mecklenburgh Square.

Guilford Street/Coram's Fields: where the Foundling Hospital used to stand (the Foundling Hospital Museum is located in Brunswick Square, see below). Many, many women who were unable to support themselves and a child placed their infants in this institution. For an account of the stories of the women who placed their babies there in the early to mid nineteenth century (when it was restricting its intake to first-born illegitimate children of mothers of previously respectable character), see Francoise Barret-Ducrocq's Love in the Time of Victoria: Sexuality, Class, and Gender in Nineteenth-century London (1991); and, more recent work, Jessica A. Sheetz-Nguyen, Victorian Women, Unwed Mothers and the London Foundling Hospital (2012) . The old entrance is half-way along Guilford Street and the alcove in which (originally) unwanted infants were left is still visible. The loggia leading into Coram's Fields is also part of the original C18th building.

Ethel Mannin, author and journalist, had a London pied a terre at Flat 3 no 8 Guilford Street ('behind the Foundlings' Hospital, which seems to amuse some of my coarser-minded friends') in the 1930s

Handel Street: Where the London School of Medicine for Women was first set up.

Hunter Street: the old LSMW building.

The psychologist, psychoanalyst and experimental educationalist Susan Isaacs (1885-1948) lived at 53 Hunter Street, 1922-1924, between marrying her second husband and being invited to join the staff of the Malting School in Cambridge. She later became Head of the Department of Child Development at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Brunswick Square: Virginia Woolf again, c. 1912. Also, the Foundling Museum has now opened in no 40, not the original premises in Coram's Fields (see above), but the building to which the charity HQ moved in the 1920s. On the outside northern edge of The Brunswick (enter via Marchmont St), Skoob Books usually has a good selection of Virago and Women's Press editions.

Bernard Street: no 32 Sophia Jex-Blake, pioneering medical woman, lived here 1874-7

Coram Street: no 9 Emily Faithfull, 1835-95, secretary of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, set up the Victoria Press which boasted Queen Victoria as its patron; had to give evidence in a friend's divorce suit but retained her own reputation in spite of this; wrote and lectured

Tavistock Square:

Memorial to Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake 1865-1925 who gained distinction in surgery, which is still a field in which women are very underrepresented. In 1893 she was the only woman taking the Bachelorship of Surgery, gained first class honours and qualifed for the Gold Medal, and later was the first woman to gain the Master of Surgery degree.

The statue of Gandhi is by sculptor Fredda Brilliant (1908-1999).

Just across the road in Tavistock Place, no 9, formerly the Passmore Edwards Settlement, was the site of the historic debate on women's suffrage between Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Mary (Mrs Humphry) Ward, Feb 1909 (Ward decisively trounced).

Virginia Woolf: lived on the site of what has now been completely taken over by the Tavistock Hotel, being built while she lived there (many complaints in diary and correspondence re racket it made). Jacques Wine Bar in this hotel is probably a good place to stop and take refreshment! (It is now closed and rebranded as the Woolf and Whistle drawing on that heritage.) The quondam Virginia Woolf Grills and Burgers in the Hotel Russell on Russell Square, slightly to the south, is no longer an option due to reorganisation and renaming. Before the hotel was built the Pankhursts lived at no 8, on this site, 1888-1893. Mary Russell Mitford, 1787-1855, writer and literary hostess, best known for Our Village, lived at no 56.

Other places of interest in the general area: The former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital on Euston Road; the memorial to Mary Wollstonecraft in St Pancras Gardens (just north of St Pancras Station), Wollstonecraft also lived in a house on the site of Oakeshott Court, Werrington St for the last ten months of her life and died there; the Marie Stopes Clinic in Whitfield Street is still on the site to which Stopes moved the Mothers' Clinic in 1925.

Further Reading:

Katherine Sturtevant, Our Sisters' London: Feminist Walking Tours (Chicago Review Press, 1990/Women's Press, 1991)

Jennifer Clarke, In Our Grandmothers' Footsteps: A Virago Guide to London (Virago, 1984)

Camden Local Studies Library produced a leaflet, 'Famous Women in Camden' for International Women's Week March 1996. There is a more recent leaflet 'Hidden Histories' but this is just a guide to houses in Camden with commemorative plaques to women. It looks as though a Women's History Walk of Hampstead as well as Highgate would be a possibility... also possibly Chelsea?

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Last modified 5 July 2023