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The Young Ones of Bloomsbury

A look at Bloomsbury on a short walk, easily managed by children accompanied by adults.

Distance 1.2 miles (2km)

Minimum time 1hrs

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Paved streets

Landscape Georgian houses and garden squares

Suggested map AA Street by Street London

Russell Square tubeHolborn tube

Dog friendliness Not allowed in Coram Fields

Public toilets None on route

1 From Russell Square tube, turn right and cross the road, then turn left along Hunter Street and past the Brunswick Shopping Centre. The road on the right opposite the Renoir Cinema leads to a statue of Captain Thomas Coram. Continue along Hunter Street and then turn right into Handel Street. Follow the path through the gates to St George's Gardens, past the gravestones lining the walls, to leave by the gate on the right-hand side. After about 75yds (69m) turn right into Mecklenburgh Street and its elegant Georgian houses. Go past the private square and Coram Fields on your right to continue to the crossroads.

2 To visit Dickens House Museum carry on along Doughty Street; otherwise turn right along Guilford Street, and take a look at the very quaint Doughty Mews, which is the next road you'll pass. Continue along Guilford Street until you reach a statue in the middle of Guilford Place. You'll turn left along this road, which becomes Lamb's Conduit Street but first, notice the entrance to Coram's Fields on the other side of the road.

3 Back along the oddly-named Lamb's Conduit Street, you will pass Great Ormond Street, which is where you'll find the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

4 Continue ahead, past Dombey Street. At the end of Lamb's Conduit Street turn right along the main road. Cross this at the pedestrian lights and turn left into Old North Street. This leads to Red Lion Square. At the other end and leave through the gates and bear right. Turn left into Drake Procter Street and continue until you reach the traffic lights. Cross the road and bear right to reach Holborn tube, where the walk ends.

Captain Thomas Coram, a sea captain who established a foundling hospital for the 'education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children' to address the huge number of abandoned babies and children found on the streets of London. The first children were admitted into a temporary house near Hatton Garden in 1741 and transferred when the present site of 56 acres (23ha), belonging to the Earl of Salisbury, was found. To publicise his new charity, Coram persuaded his friend William Hogarth to ask British artists to donate some of their works to the hospital. It clearly worked for the charity, thought to be the oldest in this country, is now called Coram Family and owns some important works of art that have never been bought or sold, including paintings by Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds. The philanthropist Thomas Coram died in 1751 at the ripe old age of 83.

A sign at the entrance to Coram's Fields says: 'Adults may only enter if accompanied by a child'. I waited for a few minutes and quizzed a man who was entering alone. 'Ah, but I work here,' he mused, as I stood peering through the gates. So the moral of this tale is take along a child if you want to visit the park and playground and a small city farm.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children has connections with two of Britain's best-loved authors..

Charles Dickens, whose work was hugely popular with the lower middle classes, raised many social issues. Having been brought up to be a gentleman, it must have come as a terrible shock when his father was sent to Marshalsea debtors' prison and 12 year old Charles was sent to work in a blacking factory. He must have worked with a fair number of street urchins and later characterised them in Oliver Twist (1837-8) and David Copperfield (1849-50). Dickens was also a fan of Great Ormond Street Hospital and raised money for it at talks and public readings.

Another fan was J M Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, who requested that the royalties went to this hospital. When this arrangement legally expired in 1988, the copyright law was changed so that the hospital continued to receive money (including an estimated $½ million from Steven Spielberg's 1991 film, Hook). Barrie popularised the name Wendy after speaking to a child called Margaret who, because she couldn't pronounce her 'r's, referred to him as her 'fwiendy'. Although Margaret died when she was only six years old, Barrie immortalised her as his Peter Pan heroine, Wendy.

Where to eat and drink

Plenty to choose from here, including the outdoor café in Red Lion Square. The food in Sid's Café in Lamb's Conduit Street is simple and hearty and the cosy place is child-friendly. If you haven't got any children with you, take a look inside the Lamb pub to see the original Victorian snob screens around the bar.

While you're there

Charles Dickens and his wife lived at 48 Doughty Street for two years. The museum, which opened in 1925, is a testament to his life and works. It's also the only London home of his that is still standing. The rooms in this 'frightfully first-class family mansion', as Dickens described it, contain some of his original manuscripts, his desk and even a tiny window from an attic room in Camden Town where he once lived. He preferred to write with a goose-feather quill that had had most of its feathers removed and there are quills and ink for you to try, under supervision - but it's not easy.


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