Fitzrovia

Finding ourselves in town for an appointment, we afterwards took the opportunity to go for an exploratory stroll in the area around Fitzroy Street and Fitzroy Square. This forms the heart of what today is called Fitzrovia, bounded by the four roads Oxford Street (south), Euston Road (north), Gower Street (east) and Great Portland Street (west).

Fitzrovia (A indicates Fitzroy Square)
Fitzrovia ( indicates Fitzroy Square)

Once a quarter known for artists, writers and craftsmen, today it is the domain of media and TV companies, advertising and magazine publishing. There are still some interesting things to be seen, however.

The house of Francisco de Miranda, Grafton Way
The house of Francisco de Miranda, Grafton Way

We entered Fitzrovia through Grafton Way, which was once known as Grafton Street and Upper Grafton Street (that might be worth a few points in a pub quiz!), where we found this house, once occupied (1803-10) by General Francisco de Miranda who fought for the independence of Venezuela. A plaque in English and Spanish gives a brief account of his exploits but you may find more information here and here.

Carlton House
Carlton House

There is  not a narrative to this post. I will simply show you some of the interesting or pretty things I noticed, such as this building, Carlton House, on the corner of Whitfield Street and Grafton Way.

Marie Stopes' clinic, Whitfield Street
Marie Stopes’ clinic, Whitfield Street

Marie Stopes’ clinic moved to Whitfield Street in 1925 and seems to be going strong still today. Standing outside was a silly religious objector handing out leaflets. Tigger gave expression to her thoughts to the woman in a few well chosen phrases.

The BT Tower looms over the scene
The BT Tower looms over the scene

The BT Tower looms over the scene here: every time you turn around, it’s there, waiting to get into your photographs.

Fitzroy Square
Fitzroy Square

Fitzroy Square is an elegant square with a central garden and early and later Georgian terraces around it. The south terrace was destroyed in WWII but has been replaced.

Francisco de Miranda
Francisco de Miranda

Within sight of the Square, standing on a plinth just inside Fitzroy Street, we find Francisco de Miranda once more, this time in the form of a handsome bronze sculpture.

Later Georgian houses, Fitzroy Square
Later Georgian houses, Fitzroy Square

One of the streets leading out of Fitzroy Square is today called Conway Street. At least, the name plate says so. Yet just beneath that sign, I found one belonging to the house which spelt it Conwey.

Conway Street Conwey Street
Conway or Conwey?

Is this a spelling mistake or was the street name once spelt differently? I haven’t yet been able to find out.

Porlock House, Great Titchfield Street
Porlock House, Great Titchfield Street

In Great Titchfield Street, there is a large and somewhat impressive apartment block (I do not know its age and mean to check further) with several front doors, each with its own name, like Porlock House, above. What struck me was the odd punctuation (a comma between the name and the word “House”). An illiterate sculptor? An eccentric owner?

Cavendish House, New Cavendish Street
Cavendish House, New Cavendish Street

So on to New Cavendish Street, built in 1775, where this building still proudly carries an elegant plaque commemorating its founding date in 1894.

Langham Court Hotel
Langham Court Hotel

In Langham Street, this striking hotel, Langham Court Hotel, has a rather eastern look to it.

Public toilet or studio?
Public toilet or studio?

In Foley Street, outside the Crown and Sceptre pub, we found this strange structure. What is it? It was obviously once a public toilet. There are still plenty of examples of this traditional form of public convenience, built underground and accessible by steps, surrounded by railings. Many of them have been closed, some built over, others simply locked up and abandoned, much to the annoyance of the public.

Intricate iron work
Intricate iron work

Some have been converted to other purposes. As was this one, though it is hard to see now what that purpose was. I think I can read the word “Studio” on the board at the top, but I can’t make out anything else. Incidentally, Gommes Forge, who apparently made the decorative superstructure, still exists and is a firm with a long history.

T J Boulting's factory T J Boulting, mosaic 1 T J Boulting, mosaic 2
T.J. Boulting’s factory 1903

In the intriguingly named Riding House Street, is the factory of T.J. Boulting. The elegant mosaics tell us that the company was founded in 1808 but the date plaque indicates that the building was put up in 1903. Where was the company originally? When did it die? What was its history? There is no doubt an interesting story to discover.

Chained pushchair
Chained pushchair

A little further along Riding House Street, I was amused to see this pushchair chained to the railings. Perhaps there’s not enough room in their flat for it or perhaps they would have to drag it up several flights of stairs, so instead they chain it here, at least during the day.

Heal's department store
Heal’s department store

Then, suddenly, we were in Tottenham Court Road, having followed a circular path. Soon we had a bus back to the Angel.

There is so much history in London that a walk almost anywhere will discover its traces, many of them beautiful, all of them interesting and evocative.

Relief, Great Portland Street
Relief, Great Portland Street

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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10 Responses to Fitzrovia

  1. AEJ says:

    It’s interesting to see the old Cavendish House sign right above the modern cafe sign.

    Pushchair = stroller

    • SilverTiger says:

      It is common in London and other cities to find handsome old buildings whose ground floors have been gutted and remodelled as modern shops. I suppose we should be glad that the upper levels have survived but the interested observer sometimes yearns to see these wounded buildings in their original state.

  2. WOL says:

    Evidently the Carlton House pictured was not the one occupied by George IV as Prince Regent. I do like the facade on Langham Court Hotel — the black and white color scheme is striking and the style looks like Art Deco/Ottoman. Wonder what it looks like on the inside. As for the public loo, at first glance, just by its shape, I took it to be sultan somebody’s tomb! Lovely iron work, though.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Names of buildings do tend to repeat themselves. Quite often this is because streets and buildings are named after the family that owned the land or someone connected with that family, and as the same families owned land all over the place, the names reappear. That is why, when checking the history of some building or street, one must be very careful to ensure that the information to hand refers the the specific subject of one’s enquiry! For example, I mentioned that Grafton Way was once called Grafton Street. Now, if you look up Grafton Street on the London map, you will find it – but it is of course a different Grafton Street!

      I would have liked to go inside the public toilet but it was of course locked up solid. Such structures share with Dr Who’s Tardis the characteristic that they are much bigger on the inside than on the outside!

  3. Peter Harvey says:

    Interesting. Back in the 70s I worked in Euston Tower and knew that area fairly well.

    Conway is now the English spelling of the town in N. Wales, but as the Welsh is Conwy the spelling Conwey might be an earlier attempt at representing the sound in English.

  4. FN says:

    Nice pictures showing the variety of building styles in Fitzrovia. There’s also the lovely mansion blocks (actually council owned) along Huntley Street and Torrington Place. This area is sometimes called the Gower Peninsula as it is between Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street. This area is sometimes left out of Fitzrovia, but you’ve correctly described the eastern boundary as Gower Street, and so included its large residential population.

    Langham Court Hotel, is a former nurses home. Well done for spotting the “Conwey” sign. That’s something I hadn’t noticed before.

    Linus
    assistant editor, Fitzrovia News

    • SilverTiger says:

      Yes, I realized there was more to see in the area than we could cover in the time. I also have photos that I didn’t post on the blog. Perhaps we can go back and have another look some other time.

      Thanks for the information on the Langham Court Hotel building’s past usage. It’s not always easy to find out the history of buildings.

      Discovery of the “Conwey” plate was serendipitous. I thought for a moment that the basement might have been one of those designated as air-raid shelters during WWII and so went for a closer look. It would be interesting to look at old maps and see whether the alternative spelling appears.

  5. FN says:

    If you want to explore Fitzrovia with old maps I’d recommend http://londontrails.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/fitzrovia/ who will take you right back to the fields.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thanks, I’ll take a look. I already have some basic information on name changes for Conway Street but want to fill in the details. As they say, though, the devil is in the details and gathering them may take a while.

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