We were intrigued to see how Montague Street looked in the 21st century in comparison to when Hammershøi painted his famous piece of the same name. So we took a trip to London Town to see just that.
Almost 110 years later and it’s clear that Montague Street still holds the same charm that it did in 1905. Hammershøi captured the grey British sky wonderfully when he stayed here on Great Russell Street from around November 1905 to January 1906; however we were lucky enough to have a beautiful clear day!
Montague Street is in the heart of the Bloomsbury Estate which in 1669 came into the ownership of the Russell family and remained so for many years until around 1918. In the year 1800 Francis Russell (who was not interested Bedford House in Bloomsbury, instead he lived in the West End) had the contents of Bedford House put up for auction and the house was demolished. As a consequence it was replaced by a wide avenue Bedford Place, this lead north to the large Russell Square, with Montague Street running parallel to the west. James Burton was commissioned by Francis Russell and the land was developed into a residential area with Russell Square becoming the main focal point. The square was landscaped by Humphrey Repton following his successful work on Woburn Estate for Francis Russell.
Development was continued by Francis Russell’s brother John and the firm of Thomas Cubitt were heavily involved towards the end of the development. Eventually, the estate north of the Russell Square was mainly residential filled with houses and squares a far cry from the agricultural fields of the 17th century. John Russell also was responsible for the building of the Covent Garden Market which lies south of the main estate.
In 1893 Herbrand Russell succeeded to the title of 11th Duke of Bedford but by then there was a move against the owners of large estates and therefore he started to sell off the estates under his control.