The square is in Bloomsbury, the medical and academic quarter of London with its historical architecture, noteworthy monuments, special literary interests and international peace associations. Once part of the estate of the Dukes of Bedford and owned by them for over 340 years, the Council now holds the freehold of the gardens as Trustees pursuant to the Open Spaces Act of 1906. Developed in response to London's growing population, firstly by James Burton (1761-1837), and subsequently by Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855), Burton was responsible for the east side of Tavistock Square which was demolished in 1938, Cubitt the North and West sides of the square. More information about the history can be found on the notice board on the opposite side of the square.
Tavistock Square is home to a number of memorials commemorating famous Bloomsbury inhabitants, visitors and events.
Entering the square through the North Gate, the Conscientious Objectors Stone is on the grassed area to the right and was placed there on 15th May 1994 for International Conscientious Objector's Day by the Peace Pledge Union and unveiled by their President, Sir Michael Tippett.
Beside it is the flowering cherry tree planted in August 1967 to honour victims of Hiroshima, the first city to be devastated by atomic power in August 1945.
Another tree close by, a Gingko biloba is dedicated
to Leonard Woolf. He joined what was then the Ceylon Civil Service becoming an administrator at Hambantota about which he wrote in 1913, "The Village in the Jungle". He founded the Hogarth Press, and was involved in his wife's work. This memorial tree was planted in the square in December 2004 to mark the centenary of Leonard's arrival in Sri Lanka (as it is now called) by its High Commissioner.
The Mahatma Gandhi statue, by sculptor Fredda Brilliant, has pride of place in Tavistock Square and brings visitors and pilgrims from around the world. It was unveiled by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in May 1968. The memorial is a listed Grade II monument by English Heritage.
Many books have been written and a film made about Mohandas Karamchan Gandhi (2 October 1869 - 30 January 1948). Known as 'Mahatma' (great soul), Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule, and is widely considered the father of his nation. In 1888, Gandhi went to nearby University College London to study law and to train as a barrister.
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 on the opposite side of the road.
Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon (3 May 1897- 5 October 1974) was a member of the Theosophical Society, a St Pancras borough councillor
as well as the General Secretary of the India League enjoying a close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru. It was Menon who chose Tavistock Square as the site for the Gandhi statue.
Charles Dickens lived at Tavistock House, 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 further trees with dedications. The maple tree was planted by the League of Jewish Women for the International Year of Peace in 1986 and in 1953 Prime Minister Nehru of India planted a Copper Beech tree in the gardens. This tree was subsequently replaced in 1997.
Tavistock Square hosts two tributes to famous women. The first is Virginia Woolf in the South West corner close to where she and her husband, Leonard, worked and lived from 1924-1939. Of her writings "Orlando", "To the Lighthouse" and "Mrs Dalloway" are probably the best known. She tragically drowned herself on the River Ouse in 1941, near Rodmill, Sussex, her country home. The memorial sculpted by Stephen Tomlin in 1931 was placed there in June 2004 by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.
On the opposite corner is the second woman to be honoured, that of Louisa Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925). She
was the first British woman to qualify as a surgeon. A Grade II listed memorial, it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the BMA building outside the square, together with AG Walker.
Throughout the rest of the square there are further bench and tree memorials.
References "Leonard Woolf a Life", Victoria Glendinning, 2006 Simon & Schuster
"Bloomsbury Past", Richard Tames, 1993 Historical Publications Ltd
Thanks to Camden Local Studies Library and Archives, the Bedford estate and the friends of Tavistock Square.
For further information please visit: www.friendsoftavistocksquare.org.uk