A plot of plaques

Over 15 plaques commemorating a diverse range of distinguished people can be found across the University of London’s (UoL) central precinct in the heart of Bloomsbury in central London. Installed by local councils, civic societies and English Heritage, the plaques represent people from different social backgrounds and religions and of different ages, genders and nationalities but what unites them all is their eminence within their field of expertise.

It is quite fitting that these notable people from all walks of life are marked on University-owned property. Since the University’s founding in 1836 it has been pioneering in   opening up its degrees to a broad range of people. UoL was the first to open its doors to all students irrespective of race, creed or political belief, the first to admit female students and the first to open its degrees to distance learning.

It’s an honour to have people such as T S Elliot, Christina Rossetti and Virginia Woolf remembered on UoL buildings in an area synonymous with knowledge, culture and education. Celebrating people in this way highlights the historical associations of buildings and demonstrates the way these small but important pieces of text, inscribed on metal and stone, foster community interest in local history.

From anesthetists to anthropologists and poets to politicians, each individual identified on their plaque will have a unique story to tell about their time in Bloomsbury. Though some parts of their stories will be lost, their lasting memory is here to stay – albeit in a small way – on Bloomsbury’s bricks and mortar.    

Who knew?

  • Rowland Hill, who founded the postal service, was the first person to found a school with central heating and a swimming pool.
  • Christina Rosetti, the poet most famous for writing In the Bleak Midwinter, was the model for the Virgin Mary in her brother Dante Gabriel’s painting The Girlhood of Mary
  • It was Sir Samuel Romilly who made possible the repeal of laws which made stealing from the person a capital offence.
  • Mary Prince born into slavery suffered great cruelty and eventually wrote a harrowing account (The History of Mary Prince) of her life which was a runaway best seller.
  • George Orwell, renowned for writing Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, began his life as an Imperial Policeman.
  • Dame Millicent Fawcett, the suffragist, was the sister of Elizabeth the first woman doctor, and the mother of Philippa Fawcett the distinguished mathematician.

Table of plaques on the University of London’s estate

Number Location Forename(s) Surname Inscription Plaque type
1 33 Tavistock Square Ali Mohammed Abbas Erected by Camden London Borough Council Ali Mohammed Abbas, 1922-1979 Barrister and one of the founders of Pakistan lived here 1945-1979 Brown
2 24 Russell Square T.S. Elliot Erected by Camden London Borough Council T.S. Eliot, poet and Publisher, worked here for Faber and Faber, 1925-1965 Brown
3 2 Gower Street Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett London County Council Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, 1847-1929 pioneer of women’s suffrage lived and died here Blue
4 Cartwright Gardens Rowland Hill Erected by Camden London Borough Council Rowland Hill, 1795-1879 Wrote the pamphlet leading to the creation of the Modern Postal Service at a house on this site 1837 Brown (Currently removed whilst Cartwright Gardens is being redeveloped. A new plaque will be installed when the building work is complete.)
5 10 Taviton Street Hugh Price Hughes English Heritage Hugh Price Hughes, 1847-1902 Methodist Preacher lived and died here Blue
6 46 Gordon Square John Maynard Keynes Greater London Council John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 Economist lived here 1916-1946 Blue
7 10 Gower Street Lady Ottoline Morell Greater London Council Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1873-1938 Literary Hostess and Patron of the Arts lived here Blue
8 Lansdowne Terrace George & Stephen Orwell & Spender Marchmont Association George Orwell, 1909-1950Sir Stephen Spender, 1909-1995 Wrote for Cyril Connolly’s Horizon Magazine based here 1940-1948 University of London Blue (jointly named)
9 Senate House Mary Prince Nubian Jak Community Trust Mary Prince, 1788-1833 Abolitionist and Author lived in a house near this site, 1829 London Borough of Camden Brown
10 14 Gower Street James Robinson English Heritage James Robinson, 1813-1862 Pioneer of Anaesthesia and Dentistry lived and worked here Blue
11 21 Russell Square Sir Samuel Romilly Here lived Sir Samuel Romilly Law Reformer Born: 1757 Died: 1818 Stone
12 30 Torrington Square Christina Georgina Rossetti Here lived and died Christina Georgina Rossetti Poetess Born 1830, died 1894 Stone
13 51 Gordon Square Lytton Strachey Greater London Council Lytton Strachey, 1880-1932 Critic and Biographer lived here Blue
14 Senate House Frances Trollope Frances Trollope (1780-1863) Author, lived at 16 Keppel Street near this site. Her sons, the authors Thomas Adolphus (1810-18920 and Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) were born there Bronze
15 Senate House Edward Westermarck The Anglo-Finnish Society Edward Westermarck, 1862-1939 Finnish pioneers of social anthropology lived in a house on this site, 1897-1900 Blue
16 50 Gordon Square Bloomsbury Group (including Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell & The Stracheys)   Erected by Camden London Borough Council Here and in neighbouring houses during the first half of the 20th century there lived several members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell and The Stracheys Brown (group of people)
17 52-60 Gower Street First anaesthetic administered here   The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland The first anaesthetic given in England was administered in a house near this site, 19 December 1846 Blue (momentous event)