Mr Bradshaw and I had rather a subdued day today – perhaps I was just tired, or perhaps I was disappointed. View Bradshaw, Regent Street in a larger map
Behind The National Gallery I was to note ‘..the new structure [which] opened in 1849, the St Martin’s Baths and Washhouses..‘ used by nearly 110,000 people in the first six months, which means c.600 people daily! This was one of the earliest Public Baths; homes did not have bathrooms, and it was only in 1844, with the ‘Royal Commission into the Sanitary State of Large Towns and Populous Districts’, that action was taken to build public baths – can you imagine a current Guidebook to London pointing out bathing facilities? (Archive on public baths here.) And did you know that there was a tax on soap, only repealed in 1853?! The Baths are no more, and I couldn’t find any images, apart from the following:
St Martin’s Lane is a very old road, leading north from Charing Cross to St Giles, and out into the country. It was built up in the 16C and 17C and very little remains to give an idea of earlier times. The west side was apparently residential, with traders on the east. A few narrow alleys remain (Goodwins Court (with B&B), Cecil Court – named after the Earl of Salisbury who owned land here), ‘The Green Man & French Horn’ is a curious pub sign, and no.31 is the oldest house remaining, dating to perhaps early 1600s. No.61, owned by the Earl of Salisbury, was sub-let to Thomas Chippendale in 1753. Mr Bradshaw pays scant attention to the Lane, and perhaps to ‘see’ it one has to look upwards, beyond the traffic and the gaudy shop windows.
The history of the area on the east of St Martin’s Lane is quite complex, and helped by looking at this map of 1746, and earlier one of 1572. The land owner was the Earl of Bedford. (I think I should have explored more fully – another time!)
In Mr Bradshaw’s time we must also imagine horse sales in this area – Aldridge‘s Horse Repository was situated in Upper St Martin’s Lane, with the last horse sale in 1926 (!). The building was demolished in 1955-56 and Thorn House now occupies the site.
Cranbourne Street was opened in 1841 as ‘..a broad and commodious thoroughfare..’, connecting Leicester Square and Covent Garden. The street was previously known as Cranbourne Alley, where Jane Austen shopped for bonnets. Cranbourne Alley today is a nasty passageway – this could surely not have been her shopping area!
Leicester Square is named after Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, who built his mansion on the north of the square between 1632-36 – top right, with gardens in front. Other buildings quickly appeared during the 17C, and the square was also a famous duelling ground, described here. Leicester House was finally demolished in c.1791 (Pevsner). (This site has a marvellous post by Hannah Renier on Hogarth in Leicester Square – do read it.)
By Mr Bradshaw’s time ‘..the square has a dingy, dreary aspect and will soon disappear before the onward progress of improvement…’. (Interesting post here, and the engraving seems rather too respectable to merit ‘dingy’!) (Map of 1870 here, showing the site of the Sabloniere Hotel, 1788-1867, where Mr Pagliano was the Proprietor in 1844.)
Other sites which Mr Bradshaw recommends to us no longer exist: Burford‘s Panorama was a very popular painting exhibition (a precursor of the RA Exhibitions?). ‘Panoramas’ were painted by other artists too, precursors of photography, the internet, and travel brochures.) And the Western Literary and Scientific Institution was in Whitcomb Street, Leicester Square, from 1828-52. There was a concern for adult education in some circles; Dr George Birkbeck founded the London Mechanics Institution in 1824 (now Birkbeck College), and this institution was part of the same movement. The aim was ‘the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge among Persons engaged in Commercial and Professional Pursuits’. And the Royal Panopticon of Science and Art, and then the Royal Alhambra Palace on the eastern side of the square, were clearly not Mr Bradshaw’s kind of entertainment venues!
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Isaac Newton, and Hogarth were all residents of the Square at some point, and this post gives fascinating insights into other residents.
Coventry Street was built in 1843-46 at considerable expense: the Marquis of Salisbury received c.£72,000 and £100,000 was paid out to shopkeepers as compensation for the demolition of properties. Just north of Shaftesbury Avenue is St Anne’s, Soho, consecrated in March 1686 and burnt out on the night of 24 September 1940, with the ‘..ugliest [tower and spire] in London..’ and ‘.. in an area thickly crowded with foreigners who have given quite a continental tone to the coffee-houses and dining rooms of the neighbourhood..’.
Coventry Street leads to Regent Street and the former Quadrant at what is now called Piccadilly Circus. The colonnade of 148 cast iron columns was apparently disliked by the shopkeepers and they were removed in 1848.
‘Regent Street was designed by Nash … a magnificent thoroughfare … variety of architectural display unparalleled in Europe … shops of unequalled beauty and unrivalled for the opulence of their contents..’. Pevsner agrees: ‘..the greatest piece of town planning London has ever seen..’. The aim was to connect the Prince Regent’s home, Carlton House, with Regent’s Park, an ‘.. area of fields and woods which reverted to the Crown in 1811..’ when farming leases expired. Nash proposed to redevelop the area into a very exclusive ‘enclave’.
And what do we find there? ‘..Of an evening it is crowded with loungers of both sexes..’, and ‘..Often the Quadrant Lounger is a foreigner..’, ‘..But the Regent Street Lounger is a better style of man than his neighbour of the Quadrant..’! The Illustrated London News, 31 March 1849, has this fascinating engraving: note the placard on the left, advertising a ‘Panorama’ in the Egyptian Hall! And today’s ‘loungers’.
The County Fire Office ‘..The County Fire Office was founded in 1807 by John Thomas Barber (from 1812 John Thomas Barber Beaumont) to conduct fire insurance business in county areas, specifically country-house and farming risks. It was originally established by ‘an association of noblemen and gentlemen’..’ from counties surrounding London. The business was located here from 1817 until 1970.
Regent Street was for shopping and pleasure! The London Crystal Palace, a bazaar for the ‘..exhibition and sale of choice specimens of manufacture.. ‘ was not always well-received. It was built to resemble the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park by Owen Jones, who also built St James’s Music Hall, opened in 1858 and demolished in 1905. It had entrances on both Piccadilly and Regent Street and was on the site of the current Meridien Hotel. The main hall could accommodate c.2,000 people and there were two smaller halls. The Hall was built by two music publishing firms, Cramer & Co, and Chappell & Co, and for the remainder of the 19C it was London’s main concert hall!
‘Golden Square is a small and not particularly verdant area on the same side as Warwick Street, where a fine Roman Catholic Chapel is situated..’. It was apparently ‘.. the political and ambassadorial district of the late 17th and early 18th centuries..’.
Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory (The Royal Bavarian Chapel) in Warwick Street is one of the oldest Roman Catholic Churches in London and was built in 1789-90 on the site of an earlier Chapel, dating from 1724, which belonged to the Portuguese and Bavarian envoys, hence the name. This early date is significant because the Penal Laws, placing heavy restrictions on nonconfirmists, were still in place. The Church is now used by Ordinariate Groups, amongst others. The plan is simple and the church was quiet and peaceful. I sat down because I was tired, and as I looked at the statue of the Virgin I remembered my mother. Suddenly I could hear her, a familiar greeting, and she was pleased to see me.
Archbishop Tennison’s Chapel and School is on the right hand side of Regent Street. Land fronting on to Kingly Street was given to Dr Thomas Tenison for a chapel and school – he preached Nell Gwynn’s funeral sermon and became Archbishop of Canterbury. He built a wooden chapel in c.1685, and then a more permanent building in 1702, on the same site. This was built as a Chapel of Ease for the Parish of St James. Eventually this chapel became known as St Thomas, Regent Street. The church was bombed and burnt out in September 1940, and the parish united with the Church of St Anne to become St Anne with St Peter and St Thomas. (I can’t find any images of this church.)(Information here.) Archbishop Tenison’s School still exists in Kennington
Hanover Street leads us to Hanover Square, ..built in 1718 and one of the most fashionable of the squares of London..’. The square was begun by Richard Lumley, the Earl of Scarborough, and a retired General who took to property development. Some original houses remain, on the west side of the square: 1, 20, 21, and 24.
No.20 Hanover Square (on the right) was the first home of The Royal Society of Medicine and was built by Nicholas Dubois, a French engineer who served with the Duke of Marlborough, and who was also responsible for No.21. (Obscured today by the Crossrail Project, so no current photograph.)
The concerts of the Philharmonic Society and the ‘..Ancient Concerts..’ were held in Hanover Square Rooms which were sited on the south-east corner of Hanover Square and Hanover Street. The land belonged to the Earl of Plymouth and he sold it to John Gallini and his partners, who included Johan Christian Bach, and who built the Rooms. The last concert was in 1874, and the Rooms were demolished in 1900. (Excellent post here!) Now the site of no.5 Hanover Square, a new development.
The Church of St George’s, ‘..generally chosen by the fashionable world as the place of matrimonial solemnisation..’, was built in 1724 and was immediately fashionable. In 1711 Parliament passed a bill authorising the building of fifty new churches – London was expanding rapidly and Parliament wanted to ensure religious needs were met. The money was to come from a tax on coal.
And in this affluent district a sad sign on the Church door