Torrington Square is at the centre of the compass for the University of London, with Senate House the dominant building to the south; SOAS to the east; Birkbeck to the west; and the Church of Christ the King––the former University Church of Christ the King––and UCL further off to the north.
The University’s ascendancy has also resulted in Torrington Square being one of the most changed of the Bloomsbury Squares from that of its original conception. Few of the original houses remain, but the short Georgian terrace containing house number 30 is still standing.
30 Torrington Square was the home of the poet Christina Rossetti until her death in 1894. Rossetti’s brother, Dante Gabriel, was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Christina was the model for many of the movement’s most iconic paintings.
Nowadays, Rossetti is perhaps best known for her long poem Goblin Market and for writing the words to the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter.
A sundial, sculptured upon the lines of a spherical astrolabe, stands on a small square of lawn between SOAS and Birkbeck. The statue commemorates the 150th anniversary of the University of London’s External System, now known as University of London International Programmes.
SOAS is the largest provider of postgraduate distance and online learning courses in the University of London’s International Programmes, with the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy, the Centre for Financial and Management Studies, and the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy all offering a range of postgraduate qualifications and also free MOOCs.
Every Thursday sees a popular farmer’s market take over Torrington Square from 9AM to 2PM. It’s a great place to get fresh produce; hot snacks; breads and cakes; delicious lunches; and a wide range of international cuisine.
SOAS students can choose from a variety of stalls, which include seasonal fruit and vegetables from Brambletye Farm; award-winning sausages and pies from The Parsons Nose; freshly baked bread and savouries from Artisan Foods; and Indian street food from Mumbai Mix.
It is the Art Deco, Neo Classical inspired building of Senate House, which looms large over the entire Square.
Although it is commonly cited as being London’s first skyscraper, its height of 64 metres never made it the tallest building in the capital.
SOAS opened its Paul Webley Wing in the North Block of Senate House in 2016. The aim of the North Block project was to create a modern teaching and learning facility for the college. The area now comprises a mixture of state-of-the-art teaching spaces; lecture theatres; seminar rooms; and leisure areas, including places for students to eat, sit, and relax.
The development of the North Block of Senate House continues a long tradition of change and regeneration in Torrington Square. Perhaps this is all a part of the inevitable cycle of build and rebuild.
As Christina Rossetti says in her poem Remember:
Better by far you should forget and smile,
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Find out more
- Discover more about student life in Bloomsbury
- Learn about undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at SOAS
- Check out the teaching and study facilities available in Senate House’s North Block
- Find out what courses you can study online at SOAS