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London Day Trip Stop 2: Russell Square

Having visited the British Library on stop 1, I bought a sandwich for lunch and walked down to Russell Square.

The clue I tweeted to my location (below) was nicely ambiguous, looking like a fairly standard London scene. David Ault, winner of the photo clue competition at stop 1, attempted a “CSI ‘Zoom… Enhance…’” on the phone boxes but failed.

Russell Square

A page on the Camden Council website gives a timeline of history of the Russell Square. The origins are in 1545 when the first Earl of Southampton purchased the manor of Bloomsbury from the Crown, and particularly in 1669 when the Russell family acquired the Estate. A period of building in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led to the laying out of a garden in Russell Square in 1806.

Russell square is described in ‘Russell Square and Bedford Square‘ (Old and New London: Volume 4 by Edward Walford) in 1878:

A writer in the St. James’s Magazine thus speaks of this locality: “Russell Square is, under ordinary circumstances, a very nice place to walk in. If those troublesome railway vans and goods wagons would not come lumbering and clattering, by way of Southampton Row, through the square, and up Guilford Street, on their way to King’s Cross, ‘La Place Roussell’ would be as cosy and tranquil as ‘La Place Royale’ in Paris. It has the vastness of Lincoln’s Inn Fields without its dinginess.”

It was in these gardens that I sat for my lunch, by a fountain that was added in a re-landscaping in 2000-1, “loosely based” on the original layout. I visit Russell Square often, though not often the gardens, as it is the location of De Morgan House, headquarters of the London Mathematical Society (LMS). The photo below shows a view from the fountain towards De Morgan House.

Russell Square, view towards De Morgan House

According to a brief history given on the LMS website, the formation of the society took place in a fashion of founding new “specialised scientific outlets” in the 19th century, including societies for geology (1807), astronomy (1820), statistics (1834) and chemistry (1841). Originally associated with University College London (incidentally, on the other side of Russell Square), the LMS held its first meeting at University College on Monday January 16th 1865 with Augustus De Morgan, the founding professor of mathematics at University College, as its first President giving the opening address.  The idea for the society came from De Morgan’s son, George Campbell De Morgan, and Arthur Cowper Ranyard, both former students at University College, who felt “it would be very nice to have a Society to which all discoveries in Mathematics could be brought, and where things could be discussed, like the Astronomical [Society]”.

Having operated from offices in various locations, the Society located in (and renamed) De Morgan House in 1998. The building now holds a conference venue and a room used by the IMA for meetings, one or other of which is where I tend to be going when I visit Russell Square on ordinary days.

The square is also the home of the Russell Hotel. This is a significant location because the hotel gives its name to the Russell Group of 20 universities which, according to its website, are “committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector”. The Russell Group was founded and originally met in the hotel.

Having finished my lunch, I moved on. I will save my next stop for another post.

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