Unlike other parts of Bloomsbury, the land that became Tavistock Square was still open fields at the end of the eighteenth century. Indeed, this area was well–known as a marsh, a place to hunt ducks and to fight illegal duels. Gordon Square, a few hundred metres to the west, was once said to be haunted by the ghosts of two brothers who killed each other in a duel over a lover.
Building on the east side began in 1803, and the garden and the other sides of the square were constructed in the 1820s. The square’s literary connections began in 1851, when Charles Dickens moved into the north–eastern corner of the square. Here he wrote Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities. In 1924 Virginia and Leonard Woolf took a house at number 52. From the basement of their house they ran the Hogarth Press, publishing Virginia’s novels and some of the first English translations of Sigmund Freud’s works.
Tavistock Square gained a sad notoriety on 7th July 2005, when a suicide bomber murdered thirteen people on a bus outside BMA House.
The centre-piece of the garden is a statue to Mahatma Gandhi which was installed in 1968.
There is also a memorial to conscientious objectors (unveiled in 1995), busts of Virginia Woolf and Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake as well as a cherry tree planted in 1967 in memory of the victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
The square was until very recently part of the London estate owned by the Dukes of Bedford, and takes its name from the courtesy title given to the eldest sons of the Dukes of Bedford, Marquess of Tavistock.
The Friends of Tavistock Square is a founding member of the Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens - www.bloomsburysquares.org
The Friends of Tavistock Square would like to thank Philip Nelson, our first Chair for his committment over the past four years and his work in creating this website.