Tales of Brunswick Square: Bloomsbury’s untold past

Tales of Brunswick Square by Ricci de Freitas

Tales of Brunswick Square by Ricci de Freitas

Local historian Ricci de Freitas, also the driving force behind the Marchmont Association, has written a new book about the untold history of Brunswick Square.

It is on sale for £19.95 from Skoob Books, 66 The Brunswick (off Marchmont Street), WC1N 1AE, Judd Books, 82 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AG and the Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre, Holborn Library, Theobald’s Road. The book was officially launched by the Mayor of Camden, Councillor Lazzaro Pietragnoli in the presence of The Rt Hon Frank Dobson MP at the wonderful Foundling Museum at 40 Brunswick Square on 20th October.

The ‘Tales’ tells the stories of the famous and not so famous former residents of the square and the organisations and events which have helped shape its history since 1792. Two former residents also provide their personal memories of living in the Georgian houses which were demolished to make way for the Brunswick in the 1960s.

Brunswick Square in 1940 looking north towards Hunter St Photo: Brian Girling

Brunswick Square in 1940 looking north towards Hunter St Photo: Brian Girling

 The ‘Tales’ is lavishly illustrated throughout, as you would expect from the author of the ‘The Story of Marchmont Street – Bloomsbury’s original high street’, with many fascinating images never having been published before. This is also the first complete history of a Bloomsbury Square to have been written since 1929.

The Marchmont Association is grateful to so many individuals and organisations for their help and co-operation in bringing to fruition this important work of social history. All proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to support the on-going work of the Marchmont Association and the Friends of Brunswick Square to improve the local area for the benefit of all.

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Eyecatcher – or eyesore? Residents petition Camden

Eyecatcher Restaurant Massing StudyFollowing the earlier consultation, the owners of the Brunswick have applied for planning permission for a so called “Eyecatcher” restaurant, to be sandwiched between the Renoir Cinema and second floor residential accommodation.  The proposed development would have a major impact on the Brunswick. It would extend right under O’Donnell Court and loom over the public space in front of the Renoir cinema, as you can see from these images from the planning application. Access between the Renoir and Strada would be restricted by a lift and staircase.

This much-loved listed building is visited by hundreds of architecture fans during the annual Open House, and the entrance to Brunswick Square, with its tall elegant columns, is regarded as one of the ‘few genuinely sublime architectural sights of London’, to quote architectural expert Alan Powers.

Eyecatcher Proposed view from Brunswick Square

Images in the planning application show it as an empty transparent box; in reality it would be a large, solid structure full of furniture and people, whose effect is graphically shown in the visuals below by Pernilla Ohrstedt, who works here. The iconic Renoir sign would go and the trees of Brunswick Square no longer be visible from the shopping centre.

View of passage next to strada View of trees between slender collumns from the central fountain








 A group of tenants, residents and friends of the Brunswick regard the development as not so much an eyecatcher but an eyesore, which will:

  • despoil a Grade II listed building
  • block vistas to and from Brunswick Square
  • reduce public space and access around the Renoir
  • mean more noise, disturbance and smells for residents

If you agree, please sign the petition asking the London Borough of Camden to refuse planning permission.

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Farewell Mala MBE

IMG_0777 IMG_0759Yesterday morning, a large group of family, friends and neighbours gathered outside O’Donnell Court to pay their respects to Mala Fernandez, who has died after a long period of illness.

Her husband Ron, known to many of us for his sterling work on the flower beds outside our block, left for the funeral service on the striking horse-drawn hearse, which followed the top-hatted funeral director at a stately pace up Hunter Street. The other hearse ended up packed with flowers from mourners. Here you can see the impressive display spelling out Mala MBE: she received the honour for her service to the NHS over 21 years as a nurse at the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mala, described by everyone as a really lovely person, will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Our thoughts are with Ron and family at this difficult time.

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Plans for restaurant above Renoir cinema

What do you think of this proposed plan for a new development facing Brunswick Square?

Visualisation of a new restaurant for which Brunswick owners are preparing a planning application

Visualisation of a new restaurant above the Renoir, for which Brunswick owners are preparing a planning application

Residents of the Brunswick have just received information about the preparation of a planning application by the owners for a restaurant above the Renoir cinema. Planning permission for a  very large, semi-circular restaurant in this position had previously been granted. This time a new design approach has been taken, which the owners believe ‘is more respectful of residents and more in keeping with the design of the building’, though it would still be a significant change to this listed building.

There will be an event for residents in the TRA room from 4.30-8pm on Thursday 5 June, and proposals will be on show to the wider public outside Waitrose on Friday 6 June from 10am-2pm. Do come along and see what you think of the proposals.


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Adam Donen appointed Bloomsbury Composer-in-residence

Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Donen has been appointed Bloomsbury’s first Composer-in-Residence. The UK Premiere of three of his works will take place on Thursday 5th June at the Cadogan Hall. Members of the Bloomsbury Association are invited to contact Jim Murray, to book complimentary tickets for the performance.

The award has been made by the Bloomsbury Association, who are proud to promote the area’s continuing cultural relevance as well as its cultural heritage. In addition to the position of Composer-in- Residence, they are also launching the Bloomsbury Prize, an annual architectural competition (awarded in conjunction with Wainbridge Ltd. and STORE).

Over the course of the next year, Adam Donen will be composing Symphony to a Lost Generation, an 80-minute choral symphony inspired by the First World War and its continuing relevance to our presence. Its first performance will be by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of legendary conductor Gintaras Rinkevicius. Grammy-nominated producer Robert Harder will be recording the project, which will receive a world premiere in a major London outdoor space in August 2015.

Donen graduated with a first in English Literature at UCL in 2006 before turning to first songs and then classical music. Other major works include a libretto adaptation of Wilde’s Dorian Gray for Russian State Ballet, scheduled for performance in 2016, the puppet opera Jokasta, and The Bernhard Suite, an orchestral collaboration with The Cure’s Roger O’Donnell which received a highly lauded world premiere last October.

His work has received comparisons with Wagner and Sibelius. He himself describes his work as “an attempt to move beyond the ‘personal, private worlds’ that Webern ushered in, and return to tonality, all the while avoiding the trap of the kitsch. It is possible to write works on a very large scale that can be widely understood and felt.”

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Night-time antisocial behaviour – have your say

The Camden Community Police Consultation Group will be dedicating its next public meeting to late-night noise and antisocial behaviour associated with its busy night-time economy. This can affect residents in all parts of the borough and we want to hear about your experiences.

The meeting will take the form of a ‘community conversation’. This is an opportunity for all concerned in this issue to share their experiences and insights about how this effects them. This event will be taking place on Thursday 3 October, 7.00 pm, at Ort House, 126 Albert Road, London NW1 7NE. The nearest Tube is Camden Town.

Detective Superintendent Richard Tucker will be heading the meeting for the Police. Tom Preest, Camden’s Head of Community Safety and Jim Foudy, Head of Regulatory Services, will also attend. Camden licensees and venue owners will also be taking part.

Roy Walker, CCPCG chair, said; ‘Many residents have told us Camden’s night time economy has a severe impact on the quality of life, not just for them but for thousands of residents across the borough. They tell us it’s not just the thoughtlessness of high-spirited revellers; it’s when they use our doorways as toilets; It’s the taxi drivers sat in their cars in residential areas making noise whilst waiting for their fares; it’s the street traders dragging their noisy contraptions through the streets; it’s this and a lot more. We want to hear from you about your experiences. Everyone who can do something about it will be in one room. It’s important that there should be a strong turnout of residents so that they know exactly how you feel.’


Food and refreshments will be provided.

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Want to have a room made-over on TV?

You may have seen the flyers on the noticeboard looking for volunteers to have a room made-over for a brand new television series for BBC2 celebrating Britain’s interior design and architecture.

The series will feature some of the most talented amateur designers Britain has to offer, and every week will visit a different region of the country to look at the incredible architecture of that area. They are looking for modernist/brutalist properties for one episode and are really keen on doing a programme based in the Brunswick estate– subject to finding three suitable homeowners!

Each episode will be set in a different part of the country and will explore and celebrate a historical or architectural style specific to that area. They are looking to feature amazing homes that best represent the breadth of Britain’s housing heritage: Regency apartments in Brighton, Art Deco homes in London, Late-Victorian properties in Birmingham etc.

The series has a contest at its heart – a bit like British Bake-Off or Masterchef – but rather than a cooking competition, it’s a contest between people with a talent for interior design. The designers are people who have a great eye and a passion for designing interiors – but who don’t currently work as interior designers – it’s strictly ‘talented amateurs.’ In every episode we take three designers and give them each a room to make over – in three houses, ideally in the same location. They will be given three days to transform it. The makeover will be overseen by two judges – professionals from the world of interior design. At the end of the series, one overall winner will be declared Britain’s Best Home Designer!

So, they are looking for three homeowners in the Brunswick Centre who would be interested in having a room in their home transformed. The owner would give the designers a brief about what they want from each room – what style they would like, what the room would be used for, preferences in terms of colours/materials etc. The designers will be judged on how well they fulfil the brief they are given.

Outside of the design contest, the main presenter, Tom Dyckhoff, the BBC’s culture and architectural correspondent, will be exploring the history and background of each location, examining the architectural style of the period and the cultural backdrop.

If you would like to be involved, or have any questions at all about the series then please contact Ellie Priestman of Studio Lambert by e-mail or on 020 7502 5745.

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