A history of London’s West End from a place of aristocratic consumption to a centre of popular entertainment and expression

Rohan McWilliam’s impressive history of the West End embraces the area from Kingsway to Bond Street and Oxford Street to the Strand. It is the first in a two-volume project aiming to cover the West End’s story from its beginnings to the present day. Oxford Street lights illuminate a district of consumption and entertainment. In …

Memorials to WW2 firefighters unveiled at site of former fire station at Rathbone Street

Two memorial plaques commemorating members of the Auxillary Fire Service have now been unveiled on the site of a former fire station in Rathbone Street this month, following a memorial service held earlier this year. AFS London plaque next to 7-9 Rathbone Street remembers the seven firefighters who died in 1940, and the bravery of …

Former home of Olaudah Equiano marked with memorial plaque

A plaque to mark the former home of the campaigner for the abolition of slavery, and a former slave himself, Olaudah Equiano has been unveiled on a building in Fitzrovia. The plaque on the Tottenham Street building where Equiano lived in 1788. On Saturday 24 October the mayor of Camden Maryam Eslandoust unveiled the plaque …

Green plaque commemorates medical pioneers at site of Middlesex Hospital Medical School

A Green Plaque was installed in October at the site of the former Middlesex Hospital Medical School in Fitzrovia, to honour biochemists James Tait, Sylvia Simpson, and Hilary Grundy for their contribution to world medicine. The newly installed green plaque at the former Middlesex Hospital Medical School. In 1952, the three of them discovered Aldosterone, …

How diplomats saved Georgian buildings on Grafton Way from demolition

Newly released archive material has revealed how an international diplomatic campaign averted the demolition of a row of Georgian houses on Grafton Way, Fitzrovia. Embassy and cultural buildings of Venezuela on Grafton Way were saved from demolition. Richard Osley reports in the Westminster Extra that the buildings were "within a whisker of being bulldozed" in …

Firefighters and police commemorate Auxiliary Fire Service personnel at Rathbone Street

A small memorial ceremony took place in Rathbone Street last week to mark 80 years to the day since firefighters from the Auxillary Fire Service were killed in a night of intense bombing during World War 2. The ceremony also paid tribute to the bravery of one of the survivors who acted quickly to save …

The forgotten history of Mortimer Street and its artistic community

A history of Mortimer Street and its artistic connections will be uncovered in a talk this month given by a curator from the Museum of London. Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia has a hidden artistic history. The streets around Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia became the base for figures as diverse as Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Karl …

Oxford Street – from Perry’s Place to Wells Street

As reported previously, The Survey of London has published its latest volume, for the first time devoted to a single thoroughfare -- Oxford Street. The Survey, founded in 1894, is a research project to produce a comprehensive architectural survey of central London and its suburbs. In this second look at the publication, we focus on …

The 200-year-old cosmopolitan and architectural allure of Oxford Street

Front of buildings on street.

The Survey of London has published its latest volume, for the first time devoted to a single thoroughfare -- Oxford Street. Survey of London, Oxford Street. Oxford Street in 2018. To the left, the former Lyons Oxford Corner House at Nos 14–24. Composite image. Survey of London, Oxford Street. Chris Redgrave. Historic England Archive. The …

The artist Harry Jonas – ‘Last of the Fitzrovians’

Row of buildings.

By Robert Cunning I first met Harry Jonas in the early 1980s. I was a volunteer with Islington social services, and a message came in to help an ageing artist, who thought he was the best painter in Britain. Harry Jones lived at 35 Maple Street (with arched window). Photographed in 1969. Source: London Metropolitan …

Soho’s lost post-war living room of badly behaved bohemians

The Colony Room in Dean Street W1 was a living-room-sized drinking club for members only, above an Italian restaurant up a long dirty staircase. It was at the heart of a post-war Soho packed with pubs, clubs and restaurants full of people wanting to get off their heads on drink or drugs, debate, argue, and …

The barbarous treatment of slaves was for the benefit of local gentry

The barbarous and cruel treatment of slaves, described by Mary Prince from her own experience, greatly helped the campaign for abolition. Mary Prince. Illustration by Clifford Harper. She was working as a charwoman at 4 Keppel Street (opposite Store Street) in 1829 after fleeing her slave owner John Wood (1783-1836) of Leigh Street, Bloomsbury. Wood …

Artist Harry Jonas was helped by actor Oliver Reed in a campaign to save buildings on Maple Street

Row of buildings.

An early campaigner to preserve the Georgian and Victorian buildings in Fitzrovia was artist Harry Jonas, who lived at 35 Maple Street. Our attention was drawn to this recently from a reader who is researching the life of artist Harry Jonas (1893-1990) and wanted to know if we had any information on the campaign to …

Investigation of former hospital and workhouse site reveals intact human burial remains

An archaeological investigation at the Middlesex Hospital Annex and former Strand Union Workhouse site has recovered 55 intact human burials dating from 1780 to 1853 from three test trenches dug into the ground. The findings are revealed in a report by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) which concludes that "archaeological deposits survive extensively across the …

A new history of Fitzrovia shows a rich mixture of workers, migrants, intellectuals and villains

Life on the edge, both geographically and socially, is the theme of this book. Colourful examples come from fake antique dealers, dodgy second hand car salesmen, and a variety of villains. Many honest and underpaid workers in the furniture trade, the clothing industry, show business, and restaurants are also included. And a rich mix of …

The life and changing times of the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre

Newspaper front page.

The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre, which will be closing in June, was a product of its time and was one of several community advice centres being established across Camden and other inner London boroughs in the 1970s. The opportunity arose as a result of funding provided by the Home Office to tackle inner city problems. This …

Wreath-laying and rededication at restored Rangers Memorial for Armistice Centenary

Stone monument.

The recently restored London Rangers Cenotaph in Chenies Street will be rededicated at a wreath-laying ceremony at this year's Remembrance Sunday, the one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice. The memorial has been restored as part of Camden's West End Project and will form an end piece at the northern end of a new public open …

Guided walks explore London’s history of sexual diversity

Front of pub.

Two fundraising guided walks to support international LGBT activists will take place in September and uncover the hidden sexual history of some familiar surroundings. London-based activist Richard Cohen is leading the guided tours, in affiliation with the Amnesty International Mayfair and Soho group, showcasing the fascinating heritage of London’s LGBT community. The walks take in …

Human remains ‘should be anticipated’ at former workhouse site

Human remains from an historic burial ground at the former workhouse building in Fitzrovia are very likely to still exist and would have to be removed before any redevelopment of the site says a report from Museum of London Archaeology. The report is a desk-based analysis and draws together evidence from historical records and the results …

Why is there no blue plaque for Doris Lessing in Langham Street?

Front of mansion block.

Did you know that Doris Lessing lived in Holbein Mansion, Langham Street from 1958 to 1962? She rented a flat from her publisher, Howard Samuels, for £5 a week. Doris Lessing (1919 – 2013) was one of the foremost post-war British novelists, the author of some fifty novels, plays and volumes of poetry and autobiography. She …