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.

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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).

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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

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.