Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765–1802) came of age in 1786. He was a spendthrift gambler, with an interest in farming on the Woburn estate. However, he was not interested in Bedford House in Bloomsbury, instead living in the West End. In 1800, the contents of Bedford House were put up for auction, and the house was demolished. It was replaced by a wide avenue, Bedford Place, leading north to the large Russell Square, with Montague Street running parallel to the west. Francis Russell commissioned James Burton (1761–1837) to develop the land into a residential area with Russell Square forming the focal point, landscaped by Humphrey Repton after the success of his work for Francis Russell on his Woburn estate.
The development of Bloomsbury was continued by Francis Russell’s brother, John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839). The firm of Thomas Cubitt (1788–1855) were involved towards the end of the development. Eventually, the entire estate north of Russell Square was filled with squares and houses. John Russell was also responsible for the building of the Covent Garden Market to the south of the main estate.
Herbrand Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford (1858–1940) succeeded to the title in 1893. By then, there was a move against the owners of large estates. Herbrand Russell began to sell off the estates under his control. The sale contract for Covent Garden was signed in 1914 and finalised with Sir Thomas Beecham (1879–1961) in 1918.
The Bedford Estates
The British Museum and the University of London replaced large parts of the estate and the remnants are owned by The Bedford Estates, mainly residential property that has been converted for office and hotel use, together with private residential property. The company is the largest private landowner in Bloomsbury and is managed from the Bedford Office in Montague Street, within the estate.
The main Bedford Estate originally extended between Tottenham Court Road, Euston Road, Southampton Row, and New Oxford Street. There were also two separate parts on the other side of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road. To the south, the Covent Garden Estate north of the Strand was also part of the Bedford Estate.