Russell Square and the British Museum- Places in my books, part 1

Hello readers,

I am so excited to be posting for the very first time on Always Austen!

A little bit about me: I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen since 2005, when I saw the Pride and Prejudice movie with Keira Knightley in theaters. That was also the first year I began dabbling in reading and writing Jane Austen fanfiction, but it would be another ten years before I would complete my first full-length Austenesque novel, and three more before I became a self-published author. I now have three completed novels and several short stories, with another novel due to be published later this spring. You can find all of my books here if you’re interested in checking them out.

In my book “Not In Want of a Wife”, Darcy and Elizabeth have a clandestine rendezvous at Russell Square Garden. Unfortunately, they are spotted by Caroline Bingley on her way to visit the British Museum, which causes some complications for them.

Russell Square and the British Museum are both special to me, because they are some of the few places from my books that I have actually gotten to visit in real life! In 2008, I had a very brief stay in London for two and a half days, and I made the most of it by visiting as many attractions as I could while I was there.

My hotel was actually right on Russell Square, and so I was able to walk through the square to get to the British Museum. The hotel clerk misled me though; I was told “oh yeah, the British Museum, that’s just on the other side of the square!” Well, actually, the museum is not on the square, but a short ways down the street, and this being the pre-smartphone days and not having a printed map with me, I ended up wandering around Russell Square in drizzling November rain for about twenty minutes trying to find the museum before I finally asked someone and they pointed out the correct building to me. At least I eventually found it!

Russell Square 

Russell Square, statue of the Duke of Bedford, c. 1830

Russell Square was originally laid out in 1804, and named after the Duke of Bedford, whose surname was Russell. The square, like most other squares built in the Georgian era, was primarily a residential area for the wealthy. Notable residents throughout the years have included the poets William Cooper and Thomas Gray, novelist Mrs. Humphry Ward, and suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst.

Sketch of the home of Sir Thomas Lawrence, on Russell Square
The home of Sir Thomas Lawrence, on Russell Square

The area is now a center of commerce and home to the famous Hotel Russell, built in 1898. 

A postcard of the Hotel Russell, early 20th century
Map of Russell Square showing the horseshoe-shaped path and intersecting paths.

In 2002, the gardens of the square were redone according to the original design by Humphry Repton, including the circular horseshoe-shaped path with four intersecting paths from the corners, a perimeter fence and hedges, and rows of lime trees. So if you visit Russell Square today, it will look similar to how it was back in the Regency Era.

The British Museum

Montagu House, the original building of the British Museum, c. 1715

The site of what is now the British Museum originally belonged to Ralph Montagu, the 1st Duke of Montagu. The British Museum bought Montagu House in 1755 and the museum opened to the public for the first time in 1759. The museum housed a large collection of natural history, books, manuscripts, coins, drawings, engravings, antiquities, and other curiosities. The museum was, and still is, free to enter.

The British Museum, present day

Montagu House was eventually demolished to make way for the present structure, designed by Sir Robert Smirk in the Greek revival style, which was completed in 1852.

Aerial view of the British Museum, the University of London, and Russell Square

So there you have two places which are mentioned in my book “Not In Want of a Wife.” I hope you’ll check out my story so you can find out how these two places come into play for Darcy and Elizabeth!

Happy reading!

Amanda Kai

Get a copy of my novella “Elizabeth’s Secret Admirer” for free when you sign up for my email list. A newsletter subscriber exclusive story!

6 responses to “Russell Square and the British Museum- Places in my books, part 1”

  1. generalgtony Avatar

    That picture of Russel Square brings back so many memories. On one corner used to be the Faber and Faber publishing house where T.S. Elliot worked. The Russell Hotel is where Oscar Wilde once stayed, I think???? On the opposite side to the rear of The British Museum is The Insitute of Education now a consitituent college of UCL. Twenty three ears ago, on a Friday lucnhtime, I sat on a park bench in Russell Square facing the Institute ofEducation. I was waiting for the exact time I needed to enter The Institute for an interview. I was desperate to do a masters degree in Museums and Galleries in education. I had a lovely friendly interview and was propmptly offered a place on the Masters Degree. An afternoon that changed my life, a little. The memory is very clear to me now. Oh, by the way, I got the Masters Degree. Ha! Ha!

  2. Riana Everly Avatar

    I love visiting literary places in person. On a recent trip to London, I dragged my family with me as we looked for familiar places like Gracechurch Street, and some others from my books.
    I didn’t make it to the British Museum on this trip (husband and son went there while daughter and I did the V&A and Hyde Park), but there will be trips in the future!
    Thanks for this fascinating look into these locations, past and present.

  3. Glory Avatar

    Thank you for sharing that bit of history & photos, it helps place things in our minds as we read.

  4. generalgtony Avatar

    Amanda. Your picture of The British Museum is the wrong picture. You show the National Gallery in Trafalgaer Square not the BM. Sorry for pointing it out. By the way, did you go round the corner from Russell Square and wander round Bloomsbury? All the sites where the Bloomsbury Group lived and wrote,painted etc are a little further north of Russell Square in Tavistock Square , where Virgina Wool flived and Gordon Square where most of the rest of the Bloomsbury Group lived. It is said,and I think Virgina Woolf mentions this in her journals that she envisaged the whole plot and ideas for To The Lighthouse while walking around Tavistock Square. . Anyway. I’ll stop wittering on. London is basically a layer cake of the past.

    1. Amanda Kai Avatar
      Amanda Kai

      Hey, thanks for the tip. I got a different photo uploaded now. I had a limited time during that stay, (and it was raining!) so I did not get to wander around Bloomsbury. Would love to see more on a longer stay in the future!

  5. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    Beautiful pictures! I will have to read the book to see how it all goes together!😊

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at