One prominent neighborhood contributing to Bloomsbury’s past vitality (although modestly so) is a small bronze-fenced garden just off Lambs Court Row, called Queen Square. This square and its surrounding buildings housed in the nineteenth century a moderately wealthy intellectual class who lived and sometimes worked in the multitude of humane institutions that sprang up there during this period. There William Morris’ workshop, the Art-Workers Guild, the Foundling Hospital, the Italian Hospital, the Homeopathic Hospital, and the College for Working Women and Men formed a community creating what Robert Louis Stevenson described slightly earlier as an area of London “sacred to humane and liberal arts”. Unlike the dreary gas-lit depictions of interwar London immortalized in, for instance, Graham Greene’s 1934 classic It’s a Battlefield, Queen Square was the place where a poet could pause to ponder morning sunshine, the coming spring, pigeons, and innocently note:
Worlds of their own
In a quiet square.
Today the square is almost completely dominated by one hospital, now called The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery but originally known when it was founded in 1859 as the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy. Overtime this hospital’s name has changed. In 1926, for example, it became the National Hospital for the Relief and Cure of Diseases of the Nervous System including Paralysis and Epilepsy. Not surprisingly such a protracted name was shortened frequently to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, and then euphemistically to either the National Hospital or simply Queen Square. To a physician in the interwar period, the latter would have said it all. Queen Square: the name could convey so many different meanings to so many different people, but for those few physicians who worked and trained there in the late nineteenth century through to the post-war era, it indicated a lifestyle and a habitus, a seemingly acquired set of appreciations and perceptions which were reproduced in each subsequent generation of physicians training and practicing in the wards and laboratories of that world centre for the study of nervous diseases.