This walking tour of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia was created by the National Portrait Gallery. By embarking on this tour, you will make your way through the streets of central London and pay homage to some of the most innovative and inspiring women in British history.
The starting point of this tour is at Warren Street Station, which is within close proximity to the Crescent Hotel and can be reached on foot within 15 minutes. The tour should take around 2 hours to complete.
The tour starts on Fitzroy Street which is where the artist, Gwen John, resided. It then progresses onto Fitzroy Square, where you can see the house which Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell lived in – number 29.
Navigate your way onto Fitzroy Street and continue along Grafton Way until you reach Whitfield Street, where the United Kingdom’s first family planning clinic was founded at number 108.
You will pass by the site of the Langham Place Group as you move towards Tottenham Court Road, which is where Heal’s (previously Heal & Son) is located. Heal’s was the main client of textile designer Lucienne Day for almost 3 decades.
From Tottenham Court Road, you must pass Goodge Street Station and onto Bedford Square via Bayley Street. Number 44 Bedford Square was the residence of aristocrat and hostess, Lady Ottoline Morrell for much of her married life.
Just 4 doors away from Lady Ottoline Morrell’s former house is Bedford College, which was the United Kingdom’s first higher education college for women. It started to welcome men in the 1960s and is now known as Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.
Making your way to the end of Bedford Square, a left turn and a pedestrian crossing will see you arrive at 2 Gower Street, the home of Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, an English writer, feminist and politician who, from 1897-1919, led the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.
Just a few doors away, on the opposite side of the road, is where the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded. Fanny Eaton was a model for artists at the Royal Academy, and one of just 12 women who contributed to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Continue along Gower Street until you reach number 52, which is where Alice Hughes had her studio. Widely regarded as one of the most prolific female studio photographers, the work of Alice Hughes is responsible for many other women embarking on a career in photography.
Exiting Gower Street the way you came, turn left onto Montague Place and proceed to the end until you arrive at Russell Square. Number 23 Russell Square was the residence of Lilian Lindsay, the first woman in the United Kingdom to qualify as a dentist.
Heading towards the junction of Thornhaugh Street and making a right turn will ensure that you arrive at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). This stop celebrates Baroness Valerie Amos, who was a diplomat, politician and the first black female director of SOAS.
Torrington Square is the next stop on the tour, which is the site of Arielle Tse’s installation “I am rooted but I flow”, which was commissioned in 2018 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first women to enrol in higher education in the United Kingdom.
Almost directly opposite Arielle’s installation is Birkbeck University, which is significant as it was the place of study of Helen Sharman. In 1989, at the age of 26, Helen Sharman became the first British person astronaut in space, aboard the Russian Mir space station.
Just off of Torrington Square is a side road, and on that side road is number 30 Torrington Square – the residence of Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti.
Turning right at the end of Torrington Square will take you on to Byng Place. With Gordon Square on your left, continue towards Tavistock Square Garden and turn left into the park. To your right will be the statue of Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake, the first woman to be awarded the master of surgery.
Exiting Tavistock Square Gardens towards Endsleigh Place will bring you towards Gordon Square Gardens and the site of another statue. Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow, grew up in Paris and London, and was a British secret agent by the codename Madeline. Her fluency in multiple languages and skills gained in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force made her an important part of the WW2 efforts in the German occupied areas of France. Unfortunately, Noor was captured and executed just before the end of the war.
Exiting Gordon Square Gardens the same way you arrived will take you towards Gower Place (via Taviton Street). Half way along Gower Place is the UCL’s Kathleen Lonsdale Building, named after the first woman to become professor of chemistry at UCL. This tour stop also pays homage to the famous novelist and Egyptologist, Amelia Edwards and present-day space scientist and mechanical engineer, Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
Just off of Gower Place on Gower Street is another UCL building, the Slade School of Fine Art. One of its most notable students is Dora Carrington, an incredibly talented painter and member of the Bloomsbury Group, who took her own life at the age of just 39.
The final stop on the tour is at the corner of Gower Street and Euston Road, made famous by the photographic talents of Fiona Adams when taking iconic shots of The Beatles in 1963. One of the images was used by the band for the cover of Twist & Shout, and while Adams was uncredited, it led to her being commissioned to capture many other talented musicians, including Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.