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).
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.
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.
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 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 here: every time you turn around, it’s there, waiting to get into your photographs.
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.
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.
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.
Is this a spelling mistake or was the street name once spelt differently? I haven’t yet been able to find out.
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?
So on to New Cavendish Street, built in 1775, where this building still proudly carries an elegant plaque commemorating its founding date in 1894.
In Langham Street, this striking hotel, Langham Court Hotel, has a rather eastern look to it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.