The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 14 Oxford Street

Oxford Street

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Oxford Street, once known as Tyburn Road, the broad and busy thoroughfare leading due east from the Marble Arch, is one of the chief approaches from the West End to the City. Characteristic of London in its bustle and its irregular architecture, it contains few points of special interest but is essentially a street of shops, amongst which drapers and mercers predominate. But in the side-streets and adjacent squares the leisured pedestrian will find various spots that are interesting at least for their associations. The west half of Oxford Street runs between the district of Mayfair, on the south, and a professional residential quarter, on the north Portman St. and Orchard St. (with the new side-facade of Selfridge's Stores) both run north to Portman Square, a fashionable quarter built towards the end of the 18th century. No. 15, on the north side, is the residence of the Princess Royal. Nelson is believed to have once lived at No. 9, on the east side (rebuilt). Baker Street is the continuation of Orchard St. Thomas Campbell lived in 1822-28 at No. 18, and M. W. Balfe (died 1870), the composer, at No. 12 Seymour St., which leads east and west from the square. At the north-west angle of Portman Square is the entrance (No. 22) to Montagu House, built about 1775 for Mrs. Montagu (died here in 1800), the wealthy social leader and authoress. The Blue Stocking Club met here; it is said to have been named from the blue stockings worn by one of the first men members, in spite of the present signification of the term. Farther to the north-west lie Montagu Square and Bryanston Square. Anthony Trollope (1815-82) lived at No. 39 Montagu Square in 1879-80; Joseph Hume, the economist, died at No. 6 Bryanston Square in 1855. Duke Street, which diverges to the north and south from Oxford St. immediately beyond the handsome block occupied by Selfridge's Stores, offers an approach to Manchester Square and the Wallace Collection (Walk 45). James St., the next turning but one, leads to Trinity College of Music (founded 1872), in Mandeville Place. On the opposite (south) side of Oxford St. next appears the so-called Bond Street Station of the Central London Railway, which, however, is some distance west of Bond St. Stratford Place, a no-thoroughfare on the left, is a good example of the harmonious treatment of an entire street by Robert Adam (circa 1773). Richard Cosway (1740-1821) spent the last 28 years of his life at No. 20 in this street, and Sydney Smith resided at No. 18 in 1835, now the Ladies Athenï¾µum Club. No. 19 is the Stratford Club. The house at the north end of the street is Derby House (Earl of Derby). A little farther on New Bond St. diverges on the right from Oxford St., while the streets on the left lead towards the fashionable physicians' quarter, extending north towards Marylebone Road. In Cavendish Square and in Harley St., Wimpole St., Welbeck St., and their cross-streets are the consulting rooms of many medical and surgical specialists, oculists, and dentists. In Holies St., which leads to Cavendish Square, a bust of Lord Byron (1788-1824) on the draper's premises on the west side marks the site of the house (No. 21) in which the poet was born. CAVENDISH SQUARE dates from about 1717; the columned facades of two of the houses on the north side are relics of a great mansion begun in 1720 for the Duke of Chandos. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu dated many letters from No. 5 (then No. 3; east side) between 1723 and 1730, and Nelson lived in this house in 1787. No. 20, long the residence of the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, was in 1920 presented by Lord and Lady Cowdray to the College of Nursing as a club-house. Romney occupied No. 32 (rebuilt) at the height of his prosperity in 1775-97. At the south end of the gardens is a statue of Lord George Bentinck (1802-48), by Campbell (1851). Harcourt House, the residence of the Dukes of Portland, stood on the west side of the square from 1722 till early in the 20th century. No. 18 is the American Consulate. WIGMORE STREET, with its drug-stores, pianoforte shops, and dealers in antiques, leads hence to the west. On its north side are the Wigmore Concert Hall, opposite the imposing premises of Messrs. Debenham and Freebody, and the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (No. 54A), which originated in the International Congress of Medicine held in London in 1913, with collections illustrating the history of medicine, surgery, and pharmacy throughout the world (open 10-5.30, Saturday 10-1; admission on application to the curator). Farther west along Wigmore St. is the Grotrian Hall, formerly Steinway Hall. In WELBECK STREET, leading north from Wigmore St., Mrs. Thrale lived at No. 38, and Anthony Trollope died at No. 34 in 1882. Edward Gibbon gave 'the prettiest little dinners in the world' and published the first volumes of his great history while living at No. 7 Bentinck St. (leading hence to Manchester Square) in 1772-83 (rebuilt) and Dickens lived at No. 18 (rebuilt) about 1832. Henry Hallam lived in 1819-40 at No. 67 WIMPOLK STREET, ' the long unlovely street ' of ' In Memoriam,' written in commemoration of A. H. Hallar (died 18S3). Wilkie Collins died at No. 82 in 1889. From No. 50, her home since 1836, Elizabeth Barrett stole secretly in 1846 to be married to Robert Browning in Marylebone Church and again a few weeks later to accompany him to Italy. Lord Cromer (1841-1917) lived at No. 36. In HARLEY STREET, parallel with Wimoole St., B. W. Proctor (Barry Cornwall) lived for some years. Turner, the landscape-painter, lived for many years at No. 64 and was also the eccentric tenant of a house in Queen Anne St. (close by) from 1812 to 1851 (house rebuilt). Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), the geologist, died at No. 73 Harley St., a house afterwards occupied by Gladstone from 1876 to 1882 (rebuilt).