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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Day 2 – Regent’s Park East – Fitzrovia

 

Today’s Route

Day 2 Map copy

Hampstead Road – Robert Street – Stanhope Street – Granby Terrace – Park Village East – Albany Street – Redhill Street – Augustus Street – Harrington Street – Varndell Street – Cumberland Market – Chester Terrace – Outer Circle – Chester Road – Longford Street – Drummond Street – Triton Square – Regent’s Plaza – Euston Road – Warren Street – Whitfield Street – Maple Street – Fitzroy Street – Fitzroy Square – Conway Street – Cleveland Street – New Cavendish Street – Great Portland Street – Hallam Street – Weymouth Street – Portland Place – Devonshire Street – Harley Street


Hampstead Road

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This pub closed its doors some time in the early 1980s and was taken over by the Camden People’s Theatre in 1994. In 2008 apparently the Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. lettering and the pub’s name were boarded over with signs advertising the upper floors’ use as a martial arts college, chinese medicine college and a language college but these have thankfully now been removed.

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The National Temperance Hospital moved to this site on Hampstead Road in 1885 . A children’s ward was opened in 1892 by the Duchess of Westminster. In 1893, 12 beds were set aside for cholera patients.  The Ear, Nose and Throat and Skin Departments were opened in 1913/14.The hospital was further  extended in 1931 after Chicago magnate Samuel Insull donated $160,000 to build a new extension, the “Insull Memorial wing”. The hospital was incorporated into the National Health Service in 1948 and merged with University College Hospital in 1968. Between 1986 & 1990 the hospital was used to treat torture victims by an organisation called Freedom from Torture (which originated from Amnesty International’s Medical Group).It was closed as a hospital in 1990 and the building was used for various courses and admin purposes by Middlesex Hospital and the Camden and Islington NHS Trust established various clinics  on the site until 2006 when the Middlesex Hospital also closed down.

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The owner of Addison Lee is a major donor to the Tories so let’s hope the Uber effect does some damage there.

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A bit outside of the designated area but I had to include the Egyptian-inspired Art Deco marvel that was the Carreras Cigarette Factory (now sadly re-named as the prosaic Greater London House). The building was erected in 1926-28 by the Carreras Tobacco Company owned by the Russian-Jewish inventor and philanthropist Bernhard Baron on the communal garden area of Mornington Crescent, to a design by architects M.E and O.H Collins and A.G Porri. In 1960-62 the building was converted into offices. As part of the refurbishment it was stripped of all its Egyptian decoration, which was now out of fashion. However, in 1996 the building was purchased by Resolution GLH who commissioned architects Finch Forman to restore it to its former glory. The restorers consulted the original designs and aimed to recreate 80-90% of the original Art Deco features, including installing replicas of the famous cat statues (you will see above). The restoration work won a Civic Trust Award.

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Mornington Crescent

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Also beyond the zone but I couldn’t pass up the chance to pay homage to the wonderful I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue


Granby Terrace

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Albany Street

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The somewhat spectral looking William Wymark “W. W.” Jacobs was an English author of short stories and novels. Although much of his work was humorous, he is most famous for his short horror story “The Monkey’s Paw”. Based on the premise of a severed monkey paw that can grant three wishes to whoever possesses it this story has been filmed several times, most recently in 2013.

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St George’s Cathedral is an Antiochian Orthodox church. Built to the designs of James Pennethorne, it was consecrated as an Anglican place of worship called Christ Church in 1837. It became an Orthodox cathedral in 1989.


Little Edward Street

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 Chester Terrace

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Possessor of what must be the most grandiose street sign in London, Chester Terrace is a neo-classical terrace designed by John Nash and built in 1825. The terrace has the longest unbroken facade in Regents Park (about 280 metres) and takes its name from one of the titles of George IV before he became king, Earl of Chester. John Profumo. of 1960’s infamy,  lived at  3 Chester Terrace, from 1948 until 1965. Perhaps understandably, there is no blue plaque to commemorate this. Profumo’s mistress, Christine Keeler, apparently later lived in Chester Close North nearby. If you were interested in acquiring a property on this street Savill’s have one on the market for £9,250,000 (a snip I’d say).


Regent’s Park – Avenue Gardens

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Regent’s Place – Regent Park Estate

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As a prime example of the cheek-by-jowl existence of social groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum in London the sprawling Regent Park estate (bottom left in distance) is just a few hundred yards from Chester Terrace and a similar distance from Regent’s Place  a five-year old business and retail development that is axiomatic of the way London is evolving in the 21st century

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Marylebone Road

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One Marylebone, is the former Holy Trinity Church (Anglican), was built in 1826-28 to the designs of Sir John Soane.  In 1818 parliament passed an act setting aside one million pounds to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. This is one of the so-called “Waterloo churches” that were built with the money.

By the 1930s, it had fallen into disuse and in 1936 was used by the newly founded Penguin Books company to store books. A children’s slide was used to deliver books from the street into the large crypt. In 1937 they moved out and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), an Anglican missionary organization, moved in. It was their headquarters until 2006. From 2008 onward the building, following refurbishment, has been used as an upmarket event space.  In 2009 an art exhibition held in the crypt created something of a storm in featuring works involving skulls, crucified monkeys, stag heads, five-billion- year-old meteorites, a black Christ in an electric chair, a whirlwind in a glass box, a Japanese girl riding a polycarbonate walrus, stuffed baby sparrows in a coffin and the levitation of St John the Baptist.


Warren Street

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Pub of the Day – The Smugglers Tavern

Pint of Doom Bar and a Falafel burger. Aaarghsome !

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Cleveland Street

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Samuel Morse – (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872)  American painter and inventor best remembered today for his invention of single-wire telegraph system and co-invention of Morse Code (along with Alfred Vail who I guess we have to mark down as one of those people who’ve ended up on the wrong side of history).

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The BT Tower (visits by appointment only). Celebrates its 50th anniversary this year (it was opened by Harold Wilson on 8 October 1965). You’re too late now for the ballot to win “reservations” for the commemorative re-opening of the restaurant from 25 July but there is a separate ballot in September for the chance to win free 30 min “flights” to view London from the 34th floor.


Maple Street

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Crap selfie of the day


Fitzroy Street

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Francisco de Miranda,  (born March 28, 1750, Caracas, Venezuala—died July 14, 1816, Cádiz, Spain), Venezuelan revolutionary who helped to pave the way for independence in Latin America.

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Robert Gascoyne Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1830 – 1903)

Prime Minister for three separate terms during the reign of Victoria between 1885 and 1902 and so was the last British Prime Minister of the 19th century and the first of the 20th century. He was the last Prime Minister to head his full administration from the House of Lords.

As an aside, the phrase “Bob’s your Uncle” is thought to have derived from Robert Cecil’s appointment of his nephew, Arthur Balfour, as Chief Secretary for Ireland.


Fitzroy Square

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Conway Street

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Sidney Bechet (1897 – 1959). A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Bechet perhaps the first notable jazz saxophonist. Although he received acclaim later in his career he was involved in various dubious incidents in his twenties and in fact his brief sojourn in London was largely spent in jail before being deported back to New York.


Great Portland Street

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New Cavendish Street

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Whatever !


Ogle Street

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Saint Charles Borromeo Church

Charles Borromeo (1538–1584) was a cardinal who was archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584. He was a leading figure during the counter-reformation and was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, popularly known as the “Little Flower of Jesus” is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church.


Portland Place

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On your left -Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, Bt., OM, FRS, PC (1827 – 1912),  pioneer of antiseptic surgery.

On your right – Field-Marshal Sir George Stuart White, V.C., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., G.C.V.O. (1835 – 1912), hero of the Siege of Ladysmith during the Second Boer War.

7- 4 to the Field Marshal on the honours score then.

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Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

66 Portland Place was designed by George Grey Wornum. His was the winner of the competition to design the new headquarters for the RIBA, which attracted submissions from 284 entrants. King George V and Queen Mary officially opened the building on 8 November 1934.


Devonshire Street

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The Mason’s Arms – perhaps the greenest pub in London.


Hallam Street

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Edward R. Murrow (1908 – 1965). Ed Murrow first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during WWII, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States. Subsequently as a pioneer of television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of reports that helped lead to the downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy (of witchhunt fame). Good Night, and Good Luck, the 2005 Oscar-nominated film directed, co-starring and co-written by George Clooney focused on the clash between Murrow and McCarthy on See It Now, Murrow’s flagship TV series.


Harley Street

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The mecca for those seeking top-end private medical treatment. I suspect I was the only person visiting this particular street who came by public transport. Saw Paul Whitehouse on his mobile outside one address – I suppose he may have come on the tube.