The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 15 Regent Street and Soho

Regent Street 1

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15. REGENT STREET AND SOHO. STATIONS: Piccadilly Circus, on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo Tubes; Leicester Square, on the Piccadilly and Hampstead Tubes; Oxford Circus, on the Bakerloo Tube. OMNIBUSES in Regent St., Nos. 3, 6, 12, 13, 15,32, 51, 53, 58, 59, 88; in Shaftesbury Avenue, Nos. 14, 19, 22, 38. Regent Street, a wide and handsome thoroughfare 1 mile in length, begins on the south at Waterloo Place, crosses Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, and ends on the north at Langham Place, but at Piccadilly Circus there is a considerable dislocation in its direct line which practically divides it into two distinct parts. Regent St. was laid out about 1813-20 by Nash to unite Carlton House with the Prince Regent's villa in Regent's Park, which, however, was never built. Nash aimed at giving dignity to his new thoroughfare by treating each block of houses as a uniform architectural whole, but after a century or more nearly all his buildings have yielded place to larger and loftier premises (1920-26). Regent St. is still the main thoroughfare from south to north in the West End. Essentially a street of shops, it is noted for its fashionable drapers, furriers, jewellers, and similar establishments, and it contains also several excellent restaurants. On the west side of its main portion, between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, several side-streets connect it with Bond St. and Mayfair, while on the east side is the less aristocratic district of Soho. In the south part of Regent St., between Waterloo Place and Piccadilly Circus, No. 1 (on the west side) is British Columbia House, with a small exhibition hall. No. 5 is the Goupil Gallery. Opposite (No. 14) is the Dorland travel and tourist agency. At the corner of Jermyn St., near the Circus, is the Plaza Cinema. In Jermyn St., a few yards to the west, is the Museum of Practical Geology, or 'Jermyn St. Museum,' in a building by Pennethorne (1850). The museum is usually open on week-days from 10 to 6, Saturday 10-9.30, Sunday 2.30-6 (short guide 2d.), but the state of the building may lead to the closing of the museum and its transference elsewhere. The HALL contains busts of famous geologists, specimens of stones and marbles used in building, and, at the farther end, a copy of the Farnese Hercules in Portland stone. In the inner hall are large geological models. Geological maps, etc., may be consulted in the library. On the FIRST FLOOR is a valuable collection of minerals, British and foreign,. including beautiful examples of gem-stones, with models of famous diamonds. Here are also vases of Siberian aventurine and of fluorspar ('blue John'), two fine stalagmites, agates, gun-flints, malachite, and models of noted Australian gold-nuggets, etc. The rock specimens are in the room on the south side. The two upper galleries round the hall contain an unrivalled collection of British fossils. Beyond Piccadilly Circus Regent St. curves to the west and then runs to the north-west. The curved portion is known as the Quadrant. Nash's arcades over the pavements here were removed in 1848; in 1905 the west facade was partly replaced by Norman Shaw's Piccadilly Hotel; and in 1925-26 the remainder was rebuilt. Through Brewer St., on the right, at the end of the Quadrant, or through Beak St., a little farther on (where, on No. 41, a tablet recalls the residence of Canaletto the Venetian painter, in 1749 and 1751), we may make our way to Golden Square, once fashionable, but now a centre of the woollen cloth trade, with a statue, by Van Nost, of George II. in antique costume, brought from Canons. Angelica Kauffmann lived at No. 16 (south side) in 1767, Cardinal Wiseman at No. 35 (north side), but both houses have been rebuilt. A tablet on No. 31 commemorates the fact that John Hunter, the surgeon, lived there in 1763-70. It was in Golden Square that De Quincey bade farewell to Ann; Matthew Bramble (in 'Humphrey Clinker') had lodgings here; here Esmond visited Major-General Webb; and here Ralph Nickleby had his house (said to be No. 6). The Kenwigs lived in Carnaby St., off Beak Street. Farther on in Regent St., on the west side, Conduit St. and Maddox St., with many fashionable milliners and tailors, lead to New Bond St. No. 9 Conduit St. is the Royal Institute of British Architects; No. 37 was the house of George Canning. In Great Marlborough St., farther on, to the right, we may note Messrs. Liberty's modern 'Tudor' building (1924), for which the timbers of old men-of-war were used. In the short west section of this street, then Argyle Place, Mme. de Stael lodged in 1813; and at No. 8 James Northcote, the painter, lived for over 30 years till his death in 1831. Mrs. Siddons lived at 54 Great Marlborough St. circa 1790-1803.