The Brunswick

The Brunswick, Camden

A concrete megastructure built in the late 1960s north-east of Russell Square in Bloomsbury

The Brunswick - flats

This was the site of a series of Geor­gian and Vic­to­ri­an ter­races, deemed sub­stan­dard and over­crowd­ed by the coun­cil – but almost cer­tain­ly capa­ble of reha­bil­i­ta­tion. The archi­tect Patrick Hodgkin­son cre­at­ed a pair of lay­ered ter­races con­sist­ing of flats with glazed ‘win­ter­gar­dens’, shops at ground lev­el and car park­ing below.

Many aspects of the orig­i­nal plan nev­er came to fruition. A third set of flats was pro­posed for Han­del Street in place of the Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Army cen­tre; the shop­ping area was to have been glazed over; the con­crete should have been paint­ed cream to match the neigh­bour­ing Geor­gian stuc­co; and the cen­tre was orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed as a pri­vate devel­op­ment by March­mont Prop­er­ties, but Cam­den coun­cil stepped in to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the hous­ing. The Brunswick Cen­tre was con­ceived as a nucle­us for the future rede­vel­op­ment of the entire neigh­bour­hood, which also failed to mate­ri­alise.

The cen­tre was named after neigh­bour­ing Brunswick Square, which was in turn named in hon­our of Car­o­line of Brunswick, who was Princess of Wales from 1795 and Queen con­sort from the acces­sion of George IV in Jan­u­ary 1820 until her death in August 1821.

Despite the many muta­tions, the Brunswick Cen­tre is reck­oned an archi­tec­tur­al suc­cess and was grade II list­ed in 2000. The Brunswick (as the cen­tre is now styled) has since been rede­vel­oped by Allied Lon­don Prop­er­ties, with its shops brand­ed as ‘Bloomsbury’s high street’. A pur­pose built Wait­rose super­mar­ket clos­es off one end of the rad­i­cal­ly trans­formed retail and restau­rant area.

Hidden London: The Brunswick Waitrose, photographed not long after it opened

The Cur­zon Blooms­bury (for a long while known as the Renoir) was built as an inte­gral part of the Brunswick Cen­tre, on its east­ern edge. The Cur­zon spe­cialis­es in world cin­e­ma and doc­u­men­taries.

When Thomas Coram’s foundling hos­pi­tal was pulled down in the 1920s its archive was relo­cat­ed to 40 Brunswick Square. The Foundling Muse­um’s col­lec­tion includes works of art by Hog­a­rth, Gains­bor­ough and Reynolds as well as social his­to­ry objects relat­ing to London’s first children’s home.

Brunswick Square Gar­dens were re-land­scaped in 2002/3 and giv­en new rail­ings, paths and seat­ing. The gar­dens’ Brunswick Plane is reput­ed to be the cap­i­tal’s sec­ond old­est Lon­don plane and was des­ig­nat­ed a Great Tree of Lon­don in 2009.

Brunswick Square is mentioned (eleven times) in Jane Austen’s Emma as the home of the protagonist’s sister Isabella.

The actress and comedian Catherine Tate was brought up in one of the Brunswick Centre’s council flats.

Postal district: WC1
Website: The Brunswick shopping centre
Further reading: Clare Melhuish, The Life and Times of The Brunswick, Bloomsbury, Camden History Society, 2006
and Ricci de Freitas, Tales of Brunswick Square, Marchmont Association, 2014