Our West End Walk on Wednesday 19 April 2017

1. Outside the Actors’ Church, St.Paul’s, Covent Garden       The group photo at the start. Ten of us gathered next to the pillared portico and our guide is centre-left, (with his hands clasped in front of him), standing beside Debbie, our Essex Branch Publicity Officer, (she is wearing a bag slung over her shoulder). We were all intrigued by the talk last October on ‘The Making of the West End of London in the C19th’ and the subsequent offer to show us the historic sites that prompted the talk which will lead to Professor McWilliam’s books. It was a sunny Spring day, though none too warm – perfect for walking.

2.Inside St.Paul’s Covent Garden, the memorial plaques 0998 & 1002 Many of the actors are buried elsewhere, but it is interesting to read the names and to recall some of their work.

3.Covent Garden                was formerly the property of the Abbey and Convent of Westminster, hence the name derivation. Seized by Henry VIII and granted to the Earls of Bedford, it was the 4th Earl who commissioned Inigo Jones to design the church and the Italianate arcaded square and fine houses. But the commission was to economise on the church and the story goes that, when told to build something like a barn, Inigo Jones replied that his lordship would have the finest barn in Europe. The church was designed along the lines set down by Vitruvius for the building of a classical temple.

4.Where Boswell met Johnson, Davies’ Bookshop, Russell Street, Covent Garden

     5.Drury Lane Theatre        The first theatre was built on this site in 1663 shortly after the Restoration of Charles II. The present building dates from 1812.

6.The Royal Opera House              

7.Dickens and the Streets of London          Charles Dickens had offices for his magazine ‘All the Year Round’ at the junction of Wellington Street and Tavistock Street.  ‘A Tale of Two Cities and ‘Great Expectations’ were serialised from here.  He had an apartment there from 1859-1870. Dickens was a fine walker of London streets as is Peter Ackroyd. And as we dodged in and out of alleyways and avoided traffic we felt similarly excited by the great metropolis.

8.The Lyceum Theatre     

9. Rules, London’s Oldest Restaurant        

10. Our animated Guide   Our thanks go to Professor Rohan McWilliam for enthusiastically sharing his knowledge.

11. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket      

12. London’s Oldest Snuff Shop                   We all felt reasonably comfortable looking at the great theatres. But the unexpected sites in-between got our attention as this delightful old shop. We were beginning to get the drift of the West End’s development from gentlemen’s playground to entertainment site for us all. Messers Fribourg and Treyer’s dates from 1720.

13. Royal Opera Arcade                  Most of us were aware of Burlington Arcade, but not of this early ‘shopping mall’.

Nancy Astor’s House
The London Library

14. Nancy Astor’s Town House in St.James’ Square  & The London Library  
 Moving westward towards Pall Mall, we discovered well-proportioned buildings and squares.

15. Berry Brothers & Rudd, Wine Merchants in 3 St.James’s Street,  one of the ‘necessaries’ for gentlemanly living.

16. Gentlemen’s Clubs in St.James             

17. The Royal Academy, Burlington House, off Piccadilly  

18. Burlington Arcade`   Lord George Cavendish, who lived in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy) commissioned his architect, Samuel Ware, to design a covered promenade of shops – unofficially to stop ruffians from throwing quantities of rubbish, in particular oyster shells, onto his property and officially “for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females”. The Burlington Arcade consisted of a single straight top-lit walkway lined with seventy-two small two storey units.

19. Savile Row, Bespoke Tailors  

20 Regent Street   

21. Piccadilly Circus   

22. Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square          Where our walk ended and where mass entertainment is set in a fine line of development of the West End. Many thanks to our guide and to all those who passed time in good company and in historic places.                                                                                                            Ian C. Mason.   1/05/2107.