London’s Apologetic Plaque In Russell Square

In the North West corner of Russell Square you could easily ignore this plaque, but it’s worth taking a second glance.

I’m pretty sure this might just be London’s most apologetic plaque.

Apologetic Plaque Russell Square

“THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON HEREBY RECORDS ITS SINCERE APOLOGIES THAT THE PLAN FOR THIS BUILDING WERE SETTLED WITHOUT DUE CONSULTATION WITH THE RUSSELL FAMILY AND THEIR TRUSTEES AND THEREFORE WITHOUT THEIR APPROVAL OF ITS DESIGN”

Awkward.

So what’s the story of this apology plaque?

The – above mentioned – Russell family are a pretty big deal around Westminster and Bloomsbury.

Francis Russell, the 1st Earl of Bedford, bought the land now occupied by Covent Garden back in the 17th Century which is why you’ll see lots of Russell and Bedford street names around there.

From the 1950s though, big chunks had been sold off and University of London bought a plot on the North West corner of Russell Square.

Apparently it was a condition of sale that the Russell family got approval of the visual design, but – clearly – something went wrong.

The offending building you can see below, erected in 1988

Apologetic Plaque Russell Square

Although the family were shown initial plans, they never had final sign off. In 1995 University of London put up a plaque as a token gesture, with the wording supplied by the Russell Family.

The building houses the Brunei Gallery, which has a beautiful roof terrace and garden on top.

Apologetic Plaque Russell Square

So at least there’s sort of a happy ending!

apology plaque russell square

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2 Comments

  • Richard d'Apice

    Reply

    Putting the 1998 Civic Trust Award immediately below the 1988 apology says “But we were right, so there!”

    February 5, 2020 at 7:49 am
  • Stewart Francis

    Reply

    What an unequivocal apology, tellingly framed, which makes the point in perpetuity! Well spotted and explained, Katie. It would be nice if others could take the hint and make public apologies similarly enshrined. I think, for instance, of the destruction of some fine, mature London planes and a magnificent view of trees in the middle-distance removed for ever by the authorities, in one place I know well. Such a longstanding apology would at least fractionally help to enlist the sympathy of the onlooker who otherwise might never have known of the brutal destruction.

    Thanks for alerting us to the Brunei Gallery. I knew nothing about it. Having looked it up, I’ll add it to my ever-expanding must-see list and pass the information to someone I know who is interested in artefacts from the Middle East, but may not be aware of its existence.

    February 5, 2020 at 10:02 am

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