Birkbeck, University of London

Birkbeck is a world-class research and teaching institution, a vibrant centre of academic excellence and London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education. A global elite, top 150 institution, we encourage applications from students without traditional qualifications. 

Birkbeck's Department of English & Humanities is an internationally-recognised department within the School of Arts, which was ranked 54th in the world for Arts & Humanities in the Times Higher Educations's World University Rankings 2013-14. The Department is located at 43-46 Gordon Square at the heart of London's historic literary and scholarly community in Bloomsbury. These Georgian townhouses are famous for their association with the Bloomsbury Group: a collective of intellectuals, writers and artists, including Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, who lived and worked around Bloomsbury in the first half of the 20th century.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Vanessa (born in 1879) and Virginia (born in 1882) Stephens moved, with their brothers Thoby and Adrian, from the family home in fashionable but conventional South Kensington to 46 Gordon Square in bohemian Bloomsbury. They rented the house together until Vanessa Stephen's marriage in 1907 to the art critic Clive Bell, whereupon Virginia moved to set up a new home with her brother Adrian at 29 Fitzroy Square, to the west just across Tottenham Court Road.

After Vanessa and Clive Bell moved from Bloomsbury to Sussex in 1916, 46 Gordon Square was occupied by the celebrated economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). In 1925 he married the Russian Lydia Lopokova, a prima ballerina in the Diaghilev company. She moved in 1948 to Cambridge, but her housekeeper still lived in the basement flat as late as the early 1970s.

Now that the building is home to Birkbeck’s School of Arts we are proud to remember its heritage. There is a striking nineteenth century library named in honour Keynes. After decades of use as a teaching facility, the room has been refurbished to its former glory following a gift from Birkbeck alumna, Patsy Hickman.

In keeping with the property’s strong artistic and intellectual connections, paintings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant have been loaned to Birkbeck by Bell’s daughter, Angelica Garnett, and currently grace the walls of the Keynes Library.