Houses by Cubitt in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London

A corner of Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London. Thomas and Lewis Cubitt. 1820s onwards. The plain frontage of the terrace shown here is nicely relieved by the tall pilasters (not a common feature in housing then), the contrast of paint and brickwork, the rustication of the ground storey, and the iron rails to the balconies and at street level. The last house at the side here shows how blocky, almost brutalist, the structure is; but again the plain shape is relieved by the two pilasters, the classical entrance porch supporting a balcony, and the outline contrast of fronting materials.

The houses on Gordon Square were amongst the earliest work undertaken by Thomas Cubitt, but their building history went on well into the Victorian period. Having already leased some land in the area, Cubitt "came forward to construct Tavistock Square, Woburn Place and Walk, and part of Gordon Square" in 1821. According to the same local government source, "With his own permanent paid craftsmen and workshops his houses represented a level of style and quality unprecedented among other specultaive builders" ("History of Russell Square"). Yet such were the ups and downs of speculative building that the plans drawn up for this particular square in 1829 were not completely carried through until 1860, when the work was finished by Lewis Cubitt five years after his brother's death. This kind of time-scale was not uncommon. In this case, the problem could have been that the area never became as fashionable as, say, Belgravia: it was a little too close to the city, a little less new and exciting than some other developments (see White 72-3).

However, in a few more decades, Gordon Square was to become famous for its literary associations. A stronghold of the Bloomsbury Group, it would count among its residents the Stephen family (including Virginia Woolf), Vanessa and Clive Bell, and Lytton Strachey. Strachey wrote his books Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria, the latter dedicated to Virginia Woolf, while living at no. 51 (Weinreb and Hibbert 325). Most of the terraces, nicely restored, are now used by the University of London.

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Photograph and text 2008 by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


"History of Russell Square" (Camden local government site, also dealing with Gordon Square). Viewed 20 August 2008.

Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopedia. London: Macmillan, rev. ed. 1992.

White, Jerry. London in the Nineteenth Century: "A Human Awful Wonder of God." London: Cape: 2007.

Last modified 20 August 2008