|Friends of Tavistock Square|
Starting from the North Gate we can introduce you to some points of interest within the square:
- A few yards on the right you see the Conscientious Objectors Stone, placed there on 15th May 1994 by the Peace Pledge Union and unveiled by their President, Sir Michael Tippett.
- Beside it is the flowering cherry tree planted to honour victims of Hiroshima, the first city to be devastated by atomic power in August 1945. A second atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki but its old buildings around the harbour were spared and today it is thriving and beautiful with the International Peace Park visited by many tourists, a short distance from the city centre.
- Another tree, close by, a Gingko biloba, is dedicated to Leonard Woolf, husband of the novelist Virginia, whose memorial stands at the South West corner of the square. After University, Leonard Woolf joined the Ceylon Civil Service becoming an administrator at Hambantota about which he wrote in 1913, “The Village in the Jungle”. Upon his return to England he married Virginia, founded the Hogarth Press, and was involved in his wife’s work until she died in 1941. This memorial tree was planted in the square in December 2004 to mark the centenary of his arrival in Sri Lanka then Ceylon by its High Commissioner.
- The Mahatma Gandhi statue has pride of place in Tavistock Square and brings visitors and pilgrims from around the world. It was unveiled by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson in May 1968, to commemorate the great Indian's birth. Very many books have been written and a film made about the life of Gandhi and his campaign for Indian independence from the British Empire. At the age of 18 in 1888, Gandhi went to nearby University College London to study law and train as a barrister.
- Looking from the centre to the north east corner of the square, the headquarters of the British Medical Association designed by Edwin Lutyens, originally for the Theosophical Society, can be seen. It has fine gates to the courtyard with a fountain and can usually be visited on Open House weekends. A small plaque on the railings marks the scene of the bus bombing on 7 July 2005. Nearby the blue plaque on the wall notes that Charles Dickens lived at Tavistock House on this site, his last residence in London, before he finally left for Gads Hill in Kent. It was during this period (1851-1860) that he wrote “Bleak House” and other novels and entertained his literary friends at his private theatre.
- Along the path towards the Tavistock Hotel at the Southern end of the square there are two trees with dedications. The maple tree was planted by the League of Jewish Women for the International Year of Peace in 1986. The copper beech was presented by Pandit Nehru to thank Camden Council for the donation of the site for the erection of the memorial to Gandhi.
- At the path’s end turn right to the first of two tributes to women. That of Virginia Woolf has been placed close to where she and her husband worked from 1924-1939 before their home, at 52 Tavistock Square was blitzed. A great novelist, her writings include "Orlando", "To the Lighthouse" and "Mrs. Dalloway." She drowned herself on the River Ouse in 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex, her country home. One of the most recent additions to the square, her memorial plaque was placed there in June 2004 by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.
- On the opposite corner is the last of the most important sites of the square, although as you will have seen there are many more dedications. The bronze bust is of Louisa Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925). She was one of three women whose contribution to medical advancement was remarkable, and she was the first British woman to qualify as a surgeon. All three of the women worked for the Women’s Royal Free Hospital in nearby Hunter Street, as they were not accepted at the main Gray's Inn Road site. Of the other two, Elizabeth Garret Anderson founded the famous women's hospital and Sophia Jex-Blake founded the London Medical School for Women.
Margaret Brett, Founder