The Garden Guide

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

Regent Street 2

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Regent St. now crosses Oxford Circus. On the left (Nos. 307-311) is the Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute, founded in 1882 and rebuilt in 1911. This flourishing institution, with various branches for the mental, moral, and physical development of young men and women, has about 17,000 members and students. In the street in front a bronze group by Sir George Frampton (1906) commemorates its founder, Quintin Hogg (1845-1903). Margaret St. and, farther on, Cavendish St. lead to the west from Regent St. to Cavendish Square. The line of Regent St. is continued to the north by the curving Langham Place, passing St. George's Hall and Queen's Hall, the leading concert-hall of London, on the right, and the Langham Hotel on the left. At the curve of the street rise the tower and needle-like spire of All Souls' Church, built by Nash in 1822-24 and almost detached from the church in order to close the vista up Regent Street. Langham Place is continued by Portland Place, one of the broadest streets in London, to Marylebone Road and Regent's Park. In PORTLAND PLACE are the Chinese (No. 49), Polish (No. 47), and Swedish (No. 27) Legations, and the Turkish Embassy (No. 69). Opposite No. 47, formerly the house of Lord Roberts, is a statue of Sir George White (1835-1912), defender of Ladysmith in 1899-1900, by Tweed (1924), and at the north end of the street is a colossal bust of Lord Lister (1827-1912), discoverer of the antiseptic treatment in surgery, by Brock. The Institute of Hygiene, which occupies No. 28, a fine Adam house of 1775, has a Domestic Science Museum (free daily 10-5; Saturday 10-1), an interesting collection of foods, clothing, domestic and medical appliances, toilet articles, etc., approved of by the Institute. Note the bread-ration as issued during the siege of Paris. The north part of Regent St. bounds the district of Marylebone, to the west; while a somewhat uninteresting region, intersected by Great Portland St., extends east to Tottenham Court Road. Margaret St. runs east to All Saints' Church, a remarkable and lofty brick building by Butterfield (1859), with a fine spire, noted as the pioneer church of the ritualistic movement. The interior is richly adorned with wall-paintings by William Dyce (died 1864) and with polychrome brick and alabaster. Good music. Mortimer St. leads from Regent St. to the Middlesex Hospital, which looks down Berners St. to Oxford St. Nollekens the sculptor, died at Nos. 44 and 45 Mortimer St. (then one house) in 1823. Behind the hospital is Foley St., at No. 33 in which Sir Edwin Landseer lived till 1825. As we approach Tottenham Court Road, we reach one of the foreign quarters of London (a continuation of Soho on the south), with many Belgians and Swiss. In Charlotte St. is the Scala Theatre, while No. 76 was occupied by Constable from 1812 till his death in 1837. Farther to the north is Fitzroy Square, once a leading artists' quarter. Colonel Newcome and his friend Binnie set up house on the south side ('with a funereal urn in the centre of the entry'). At No. 7 Buckingham St. Flaxman lived from 1796 till his death in 1826. At No. 8 Buckingham Place Samuel Morse, the American pioneer of electric telegraphy, and C. R. Leslie, the Philadelphian artist, had rooms in 1811. To the east of the main part of Regent St. lies Soho, a congested district of narrow streets, dating from the end of the 17th century, but much altered by the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road in 1886-87. Extending on the north to Oxford St. and on the south to Leicester Square, this region has been a foreign quarter of London ever since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 sent thousands of French refugees across the Channel. The foreign residents here are mainly French, though there are also many Italians and Swiss; and in several of the streets not only is French a common language but the shops and small restaurants present quite a foreign air. Of late years the inexpensive restaurants of Soho have enjoyed an extraordinary vogue, and this fact seems to have somewhat modified the previously exclusive foreign air of the district. Recently Soho has become also the centre of the film industry.