Day 6 – Wigmore Street- Portland Place – Cavendish Square

Today’s Route finishes off the area to the north of Oxford Street, covering the stretch between Bond Street and Oxford Circus tube stations. Main focus is on the southern portion of Portland Place home of BBC HQ and the Langham Hotel but also foreign embassy central.

Day 6 RouteStarting point is Bond Street tube from where we head north on Marylebone Lane then right at Wigmore Street and south again on Welbeck Street to Vere Street. Here we find St Peter’s Church once known as the Oxford Chapel. This is now the base for the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity.

IMG_20150904_111828

The Brazilian Consulate General (different from the embassy) is also located here at no.3. IMG_20150904_112202

Chapel Place skirts up the side of House of Fraser at no.350 Oxford Street. Up until its rebranding in 2001 this was the main branch of DH Evans. (DH Evans was named after Welshman Dan Harries Evans and opened on Oxford Street in the last century. It was quickly expanded but Mr Evans died penniless in 1928 after a series of unsuccessful property deals. House of Fraser is unfortunately not after the misanthropic Dad’s Army character though it did originate in Glasgow – in 1849 as Athur and Fraser).

IMG_20150904_112511

IMG_20150904_112713 This brings us to the bottom end of Wimpole Street (see previous post). Since 1912 No.1 has been the home of the Royal Society of Medicine. Both Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud are Honorary Fellows of the Society and five of its former presidents have diseases named after them. The symbol of the serpent entwined around a staff derives from the rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine.

Somewhat ironically No.1A houses the London HQ of Coca Cola.IMG_20150904_114303

Further down the street we find the London Eye Hospital

IMG_20150904_113207At the intersection with Wigmore Street (again) is the world-renowned Wigmore Hall London’s premier venue for chamber music. Rather shamefully I have only ever been here once which was when my A level Russian group (all three of us) came up to hear the poet Yevgeniy Yevtushenko. So that would be have been either 1976 or 1977 and I suspect none of us managed to follow a word.

The stage and green room at the Wigmore Hall

IMG_20150919_122721

IMG_20150919_122918

This rather splendid edifice opposite the Wigmore Hall at no.33 brings us back into the realm of department stores as this is where Debenhams began. (Its genesis was actually at no.44 but it moved to no.33 in 1851 as Debenham and Freebody and properly took off from that point.)

IMG_20150919_123840

IMG_20150904_114857

IMG_20150904_114953

Via Queen Anne Street we reach yet another stretch of Harley Street and here at No.43-49 is sited Queen’s College which was founded in 1848 as the first academic institution providing girls aged 11-18 with a secondary education that would allow them to go on to university.

In a flat at the very grand no.2 Mansfield Street resided the music patron and philanthropist, Sir Robert Mayer (1870 -1985), who was one of the founders of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and (as you can see) lived to be 105. When he appeared on Desert Island Discs at the age of a hundred he picked Son of My Father by Chicory Tip as his favourite track.

IMG_20150904_115450

IMG_20150904_120025This rather enigmatic grade II listed building at no. 10 Duchess Street is now part of the British Medical Association and originates from around 1770 as designed by Robert Ada. At the end of the 18th century the house was acquired by Thomas Hope, a wealthy Dutch designer and collector. His remodelling of the interior based on a series of themes included an Egyptian Room but whether this was inspired by or led to the creation of the sphinxes on the exterior is unclear.

IMG_20150904_120608 IMG_20150904_120827

Back out now on to the lower end of Portland Place with its cluster of embassies. So high numbers to low we have China down at no. 49, Poland a non-mover at no. 47, Kenya bubbling under at no. 45, Columbia a new entry at no.35, Sweden climbing to no.27 and Portugal smashing in at no.3.

Adjacent to Portugal on the eponymous Langham Street lies the Langham Hotel opened in 1865 and mooted as the first of Europe’s so-called “Grand Hotels”. It was built at a cost of £300,000 which today would get you about 12 nights in the penthouse Sterling Suite.

IMG_20150904_123850 IMG_20150904_121200

Notwithstanding that the most famous occupant of Portland Place is of course the good old BBC Broadcasting House. W1A 1AA being possibly the most iconic post code in the country – at least for those of us old enough to have written actual letters to BBC television programmes. Built in classic art deco style in 1932 the building was extensively restored and redeveloped in the early years of the 21st Century and as well as being the administrative HQ of the BBC is home to its news and radio services.

IMG_20150904_121540 IMG_20150904_121623

The statues on the exterior of the building are the work of the supremely talented but infamous Eric Gill (1882 – 1940). Suffice to say, were Eric Gill  alive today his activities would be of more than passing interest to Operation Yewtree. There are probably few more prominent examples of the vexed question of whether or not it is possible to continue to admire the work of an artist whose personal mores turn out to be abhorrent.

IMG_20150904_122001 IMG_20150904_122107

IMG_20150904_123613 IMG_20150904_123451

Round the back of the new development (on Middleton Place) is the home of Radio 1 and Radio 1-Xtra. And on this day there was a posse of young hopefuls looking out for the visiting James Bay, one of the new breed of sensitive male singer-songwriters (Ed Sheeran you have a lot to answer for). At another entrance (presumably Radio 6) was a collection of trainspottery middle-aged men clutching record bags but I never did find out who they were hoping to meet.

Just next door to the BBC on is All Souls, the last remaining church designed by John Nash (1752 – 1835), which opened in 1824.

IMG_20150904_123650IMG_20150904_124020


IMG_20150904_124334

Not to be confused of course with either the mathematician John Nash who was the subject of “A Beautiful Mind” or the pop reggae singer Johnny Nash of ” I Can See Clearly” fame.

East of here the walk takes in the man stretch of Langham Street where the attractively tiled Grange Langham Court makes a bit of a show of itself before moving on to Hallam Street, Gildea Street, Girfield Street and a bit more of Great Portland Street without arousing further interest before heading back via Riding House Street where another embassy, that of Algeria, sits at No.1 (with a bullet).

IMG_20150904_123033

This is the point where Portland Place merges into Regent Street (north) but we head straight across and on to Cavendish Place. Chandos Street to the north is home at no.11 to the Medical Society of London founded in 1773. No.10a next door is built in the same style and although just offices of a financial company makes a nicer picture.

IMG_20150904_125021

IMG_20150904_125243

A little way further along, the entrance to Deans Mews is framed by this arch with its “levitating” sculpture of the Madonna and Child. This, the work of sculptor Jacob Epstein, was constructed from lead that was salvaged from the nearby roof of a building bombed in the Second World War and weighs in the region of three tons.

Almost final stop on this journey is Cavendish Square named after Henrietta Cavendish-Holles, the wife of the second Earl of Oxford. The statue on the centre of the square, ignored by the lunching office workers, is a recent art project which has recreated in soap the original statue of the Duke of Cumberland which stood on the plinth from 1770 to 1868 but was removed in the late nineteenth century due to posthumous disapproval of the Duke’s actions during the Battle of Culloden.

IMG_20150904_131249 IMG_20150904_131220

IMG_20150904_131425The bronze statue on the south side of the square is of Lord William George Frederick Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (1802 – 1848). Bentinck was a conservative MP best known for his part in the corn laws-related downfall of Sir Robert Peel and also a prominent racehorse owner and notorious gambler. He died, unmarried, aged 46 of a suspected heart attack and was buried in (our old friend) St Marylebone Parish Church.

IMG_20150904_130311On the west side of the square is found The Royal College of Nursing, at no.20 which was at one time the home of Herbert Henry Asquith, Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. The RCN, which was founded in 1916, took over the house that same year when Asquith left office and found he could no longer afford its upkeep.

Asquith was married twice but during his term in office he also developed a romantic obsession with Venetia Stanley who went on to marry Edwin Montagu, a Liberal Cabinet Minister. He sent her over 560 letters and Churchill who was at the time the First Lord of the Admiralty, viewed this endless letter writing as “England’s greatest security risk”. However within days of his rejection by Venetia, Asquith started an intense relationship with her older sister Sylvia, which lasted for several years.

Returning to the building itself its most prominent feature is the extensive mural painted alongside and above the main staircase depicting scenes of ancient Rome. The mural is believed to date from around 1730 and be the work of Sir James Thornhill, father-in-law of Hogarth.

IMG_20150919_160733 IMG_20150919_160703

We end again back on Oxford Street emerging by John Lewis at no. 300. The original John Lewis store in Oxford Street was bombed to the ground during the Blitz (though amazingly without any casualties). It took until 1960 before the present building was completed and opened. The iconic Winged Figure statue by Barbara Hepworth was unveiled in 1963, John Lewis having commissioned the Yorkshire-born artist to create a work that evoked common interest and ownership.

IMG_20150904_131338 IMG_20150919_163525

Day 5 – Fitzrovia – North of Oxford Street East

Today’s route covers the area to the west of Tottenham Court Road and North of Oxford Street and takes in most of the rest of Fitzrovia. Back in the 90’s some genius tried to re-brand this area as “NoHo” but there was NoHope of that succeeding despite the prevalence of media businesses. Most well-known thoroughfare is probably Charlotte Street; once renowned for its many Greek restaurants. It appears sadly that those have all gone now (I guess plate-smashing and austerity aren’t a good mix), replaced by clutch of high-end eating establishments – all doing great business on a Friday lunchtime.

A lot of this post will focus on the compact but fascinating Pollock’s Toy Museum in Whitfield Street – more than worth £6 of your hard-earned if you’re ever in the vicinity.

Day 5 Route

IMG_20150828_111827

We begin at Goodge Street tube station just adjacent to which in Whitfield Gardens can be found the Fitzrovia Mural depicting life in the area at the start of the 1980s.

Head north up Tottenham Court Road then turn left into Grafton Way and again into Whitfield Street. At no.108 is Marie Stopes House, former home of the lady herself.  Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880 – 1958) led a very colourful and varied life and although her fame today rests on her pioneering work in the field of birth control she was also (and first) a renowned palaeontologist.

IMG_20150828_112554240px-Marie_Stopes_in_her_laboratory,_1904

The address of the aforementioned Pollocks Toy Museum is actually 1 Scala Street but it does front onto Whitfield Street.

IMG_20150828_121541IMG_20150828_113155

The museum’s collection mainly focuses on Victorian toys with a particular interest in model theatres and dolls but as you can see below there is plenty of nostalgia prompts for us kids of the sixties and seventies.

 IMG_20150828_114242 IMG_20150828_114811

The following two items greatly intrigued me. I wasn’t previously aware that Snakes and Ladders originated as a game used for Hindu religious instruction. Apparently it represents the journey of a soul towards heaven with the ladders rewarding good deeds and the snakes punishing evil ones. The unfortunately named Plopitin looks like some weird 1930s forerunner of swingball. If you’ve got a £150 spare there’s one currently going on ebay

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1930S-RARE-VINTAGE-BOXED-THE-GAME-OF-PLOPITIN-/261704562321

IMG_20150828_115223 IMG_20150828_114914

Just about my favourite things though were these two prints which are facsimiles from 1883 editions of the Victorian publications, the Girl’s Own Paper and the Boy’s Own Paper. At the end of each paper was as section which printed replies to correspondence received from readers – the letters themselves were never published. I’d urge you to take a closer look at these because they are supremely amusing.

IMG_20150828_113834 IMG_20150828_121352

I can’t believe I’m alone in finding dolls like these incredibly creepy. As for the Russian Matryoshkas I’m ok on the smaller ones at the front but having trouble identifying the three at the back. Looks to me like there are two alternative Gorbachevs.

IMG_20150828_120409 IMG_20150828_115725

Anyway moving on…At the end of the street is Lewis Leathers, proclaimed as Britain’s oldest purveyors of motorcycle clothing. I thought it was the motorcyclists that wore the clothing but that may be just me being pedantic. Inadvertent crap selfie of the day. 

IMG_20150828_121841

IMG_20150828_122142

Above right is the charmingly out-of-context Colville Place which cuts between Whitfield Street and Charlotte Street. This is home to the Movie Poster Art Gallery which also features original artwork for LP sleeves such as this one for the brilliant A Certain Ratio’s Sextet album from 1982. If you’re unfamiliar with ACR then I strongly suggest that you Spotify them.

IMG_20150828_122110

I’ve already mentioned Charlotte Street and its culinary delights. It’s also home to Saatchi & Saatchi of which the less said the better probably. Quick mention of the Darren Baker gallery which currently has an interesting selection of work on display and where the assistant was atypically friendly.

IMG_20150828_125226

On to Goodge Street and then in succession, Tottenham Street , Goodge Place, Charlotte Place and Newman Passage.

No 15. Percy Street was for a time the residence of actor Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962). No matinee idol, Laughton is probably best known for his portrayal of the Hunchback of Notre Dame though he also starred in Mutiny on the Bounty and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (see previous post). Nowadays his acclaim, as far as film buffs are concerned, rests on his solitary directorial effort, the startling Night of the Hunter.

220px-Charles_Laughton-publicity2

poster_thenightofthehunter

Next door at No.14 lived (though not contemporaneously) the poet, Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore (1823 – 1896) about which nothing was quite as interesting as his name.

On the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street is the famous Fitzroy Tavern which is unfortunately closed for major refurbishment until 2016 which means that the pub of the day is the nearby Rising Sun, quite possibly the last unreconstructed boozer in the vicinity. Which means that there are free tables and who can argue with just over a tenner for a pint of Czech lager and a plate of ham, egg & chips.

IMG_20150828_131002 IMG_20150828_140353

Had I hung on till I got round the corner into Rathbone Place I could have drunk in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas and George Orwell in the Wheatsheaf,

Stephen Street is home to the British Film Institute and in Gresse Sreet is the grandly named Fashion Retail Academy (where you can learn how to flog frocks in Next).

Duck back down onto Oxford Street and up Hanway Street leading to Hanway Place. On the former lies Bradleys Spanish Bar which is for my money the best drinking place within coughing distance of Oxford Street and one of the few bars that still has a working jukebox.

IMG_20150828_141751

North again on Newman Street and into Mortimer Street. The architecturally striking Radiant House occupies nos. 34-38 though there seems to be a dearth of information about its origins.

IMG_20150828_144422

At No. 10 Berners Street is the 5 star Edition Hotel (part of the Marriott Group). The building dates from 1835 and the site has been a hotel since 1904, simply the Berners Hotel in its previous incarnation.

IMG_20150828_143421IMG_20150828_143817

IMG_20150828_144007 IMG_20150828_151100Back up Wells Street and veering off down Marylebone Passage (above right) takes us on to Margaret Street where on opposite sides you have the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple (south side) and All Saints Church (north side). The former (Grade II listed) was originally the parish school attached to the latter and dates from the mid 19th century.

All Saints was completed in 1950 and, designed by the architect William Butterfield, is one of the landmark buildings of the Gothic revival.

IMG_20150828_150806IMG_20150828_150712The church has recently undergone renovation work which shows off the impressive decorative tiling and paintwork to fantastic effect.

IMG_20150828_150557

Next up is Riding House Street home to the College of Naturapathic Medicine where presumably one student has the same effect as several thousand.

IMG_20150828_144857

This leads on to Nassau Street, Foley Street, Candover Street, Hanson Street and Eastcastle Street.

IMG_20150828_145232 IMG_20150828_151433

Eventually arriving back on Oxford Street via the already familiar Great Titchfield Street we emerge opposite Marks & Spencer which opened here in 1938 occupying the former site of the London Pantheon which in its various incarnations since 1772 served as a theatre, opera house, bazaar and wine merchants. The present building, in iconic art deco style, was designed by by Robert Lutyens (son of Sir Edwin Lutyens) and was granted Grade II listed status in 2009.

IMG_20150828_151555