Fitzrovia: Wikis

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Coordinates: 51°31′06″N 0°08′08″W / 51.5184°N 0.1355°W / 51.5184; -0.1355

Fitzrovia
Fitzrovia is located in Greater London
Fitzrovia

 Fitzrovia shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ293816
London borough Camden
Westminster
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district W1 & WC1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
London Assembly Barnet and Camden
West Central
List of places: UK • England • London

Fitzrovia is a neighbourhood in central London, near London's West End lying partly in the London Borough of Camden (in the east) and partly in the City of Westminster (in the west); and situated between Marylebone and Bloomsbury and north of Soho. It is characterised by its mixed-use of residential, retail, business with not one aspect or trade dominating the area. There are several conservation areas here and many listed buildings. Fitzrovia has always been regarded as somewhat bohemian: a word that has probably been overused to describe the district.

Contents

Etymology

Fitzrovia is probably named after the Fitzroy Tavern,[1] a public house situated on the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street within the district. The name was adopted during the inter-war years initially by and later in recognition of the artistic and bohemian community habitually found at the public house.[2]

The name Fitzrovia was recorded in print for the first time by Tom Driberg MP in the "William Hickey" gossip column of the Daily Express, in 1940.[3]

The writer and dandy Julian Maclaren-Ross recalled in his Memoirs of the Forties that Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu aka "Tambi" editor of Poetry London had used the name Fitzrovia. Tambi had apparently claimed to have coined the name Fitzrovia.[4]

By the time Julian Maclaren-Ross met Tambimuttu and Dylan Thomas in the early 1940s this literary group had moved away from the Fitzroy Tavern, which had become a victim of its own success, and were hanging out in the lesser-known Wheatsheaf and others in Rathbone Place and Gresse Street. Maclaren-Ross recalls Tambimuttu saying: "Now we go to the Black Horse, the Burglar's Rest, the Marquess of Granby, The Wheatsheaf... in Fitzrovia." Maclaren-Ross responded with: "I know the Fitzroy" to which Tambimuttu says: "Ah, that was in the Thirties, now they go to other places. Wait and see." Tambimuttu then takes him on a pub crawl.[5]

Geography

Fitzrovia has a clearly defined geographic area. It is bounded to the north by Euston Road, to the east by Gower Street, Store Street, and the southern part of Tottenham Court Road, to the south by Oxford Street and to the west by Great Portland Street. Fitzrovia News, the community newspaper, has been distributed for many years in this area.[6]

However, for those unfamiliar with the area the boundaries like in many parts of London are not so obvious. This is complicated by the area straddling two London boroughs and two postcode districts, and by estate agents and developers often drawing their own boundaries.

The geographic boundaries of Fitzrovia are often incorrectly recorded. The area east of Tottenham Court Road and between Gower Street (the Gower Peninsular, as some local people call it) is sometimes not included. Many estate agents do not include the Gower Peninsular when they should do. This area has a large residential population mostly living in mansion blocks as well as the mixed use streets of Store Street, Chenies Street and Torrington Place.

The development of the University of London buildings running north-south on the eastern side of Gower Street from the Euston Road down to Montague Place creates a physical divide between Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury.

The south eastern area around Bedford Square is in the Bedford Estate and so had a different historical development, a different character and is considered part of Bloomsbury. The continuation of Gower Street south of Bedford Square is called Bloomsbury Street.

Nick Bailey's 1981 book about Fitzrovia states the generally accepted boundaries as Great Portland Street in the west and Gower Street in the east and excludes the Bedford Square area.[7]

However Mike Pentelow and Marsha Rowe's more recent book Characters of Fitzrovia includes the area west between Great Portland Street and Portland Place (the Portland Peninsular). John Nash said Portland Place (completed in 1820) was meant to be "a boundary and complete separation between the streets and squares occupied by the nobility and gentry, and the narrow streets and meaner houses occupied by merchants and the trading part of the community."[8]

Nevertheless, the streets of the Portland Peninsular are of quite a different character, modest but affluent residential, mansion blocks, more like Marylebone, to those east of Great Portland Street. Their residents consider themselves to be part of Marylebone, not Fitzrovia.

Fitzrovia streets are characterised by a mix of private and social housing, and also a wide variety of other property uses. This mix really defines the area. It is slightly marginalised by being on the edge of the London Borough of Camden and the City of Westminster. But the area has a clearly defined and distinct character. A character that is constantly under threat from large-scale development.

The north and south boundaries are rarely disputed. On the north side of the Euston Road is a large scale office development and further north again is the Regent's Park Estate which is mostly residential. South of Oxford Street is Soho with its own distinct character.

Relative location

Historical development

The Fitzroy Tavern was named after Charles FitzRoy (later Baron Southampton), who first developed the northern part of the area in the 18th century. FitzRoy purchased the Manor of Tottenhall and built Fitzroy Square, to which he gave his name; nearby Fitzroy Street also bears his name. The square is the most distinguished of the original architectural features of the district, having been designed in part by Robert Adam. The south-western area was first developed by the Duke of Newcastle who established Oxford Market, now the area around Market Place. By the beginning of the 19th century this part of London was heavily built upon, severing one of the main routes through it, Marylebone Passage, into the tiny remnant that remains today on Wells Street, opposite what would have been the Tiger public house — now a rubber clothing emporium.

In addition to Fitzroy Square and nearby Fitzroy Street, there are numerous locations named for the FitzRoy family and Devonshire/Portland family, both significant local landowners. Charles FitzRoy was the grandson of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, hence Grafton Way. William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland and his wife Margaret Harley lend their names to Portland Place, Great Portland Street and Harley Street. Margaret Harley was daughter of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, for whom Oxford Street (the southern boundary of Fitzrovia) and Mortimer Street are named. The Marquessate of Titchfield is a subsidiary title to the Dukedom of Portland, hence Great Titchfield Street. William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (Prime Minister) married Dorothy Cavendish, daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire (also Prime Minister), hence New Cavendish Street, Cavendish Square and Devonshire Street.

Much of Fitzrovia was developed by minor landowners, and this led to a predominance of small and irregular streets – in comparison with neighbouring districts like Marylebone and Bloomsbury, which were dominated by one or two landowners, and were thus developed more schematically, with stronger grid patterns and a greater number of squares.

Two of London's oldest surviving residential walkways can be found in Fitzrovia. Colville Place and the pre-Victorian Middleton Buildings (built circa 1825) are in the old London style of a way.

The most prominent feature of the area is the BT Tower, Cleveland Street, which is one of London's tallest buildings and was open to the public until an IRA bomb exploded in the revolving restaurant in 1971. Another notable modern building is the Y.M.C.A. Indian Student Hospital on Fitzroy Square one of the few surviving buildings by Ralph Tubbs.

Recent development

The site of the Middlesex Hospital which occupies a large part of Fitzrovia was acquired by the property developer Candy and Candy and the hospital has now been demolished to make way for a new housing and retail development, NoHo Square. The Candy brothers' scheme eventually collapsed due to the credit crunch and the hospital site now stands vacant. Max Neufeld, a local resident and member of the campaign group the Charlotte Street Association rejoiced at the news and said “The horrible behemoth scheme has finally seen its end. Like a bad dream its gone. And I suspect that horrible Noho name will disappear for good."[9]

A new developer Stanhope plc was leading the project and has stated that the name Noho Square will not be the name of the site. Until a new name is agreed the site will be known as the "former Middlesex Hospital site". Stanhope had also consented to allow local residents to create temporary allotments on the site until a new development was started. However, the Icelandic bank Kaupthing who have a controlling interest in the site announced in March 2010 its intention to sell the site on the open market. Stanhope have indicated they will bid for it.[10]. Stanhope have withdrawn their offer of allowing allotments on the site having been instructed by the owners Kaupthing. However, Kaupthing are talking with local people and may yet allow the garden allotments project to go ahead [11].

The new kid on the block in Fitzrovia is Derwent London plc. After a merger with London Merchant Securities the company acquired 800,000 square feet of property to add to its existing Fitzrovia portfolio[12]. This gave the company about 1,000,000 square feet of property over more than 30 sites in Fitzrovia. This is about one fifth of the company's total portfolio. In November 2009 the company announced plans to transform part of Fitzrovia into a new retail destination with cafes and restaurants.[13][14][15]. An exhibition was opened in Whitfield Street W1 to showcase the company's plans [16] and the company produced a brochure entitled Your Fitzrovia [17].

Simon Silver head of development of Derwent London stated that the company wanted to enhance the area's bohemian appeal and said: “There is not that much street life. There is a really good opportunity here. The mix of retailers is very important. Fitzrovia is famed for its arts and artisans, not new giant coffee chains. Someone described the area as a little oasis in Fitzrovia, and we would not want to change that.”[18]

The company drew concern from some of Fitzrovia's 9,000 residents who felt the company would change the character of the area and the local community newspaper Fitzrovia News criticised the plans. The paper also accused the company of shifting social housing that they were obliged to provide under a section 106 agreement to an inferior site elsewhere in Fitzrovia, albeit with the consent of the local authority the London Borough of Camden. The paper also accused the company of wanting to commercialise a piece of public open space along Tottenham Court Road, which runs through Fitzrovia [19].

Simon Silver responded by saying his company was misrepresented and subsequently did an interview with Fitzrovia News where he was given the opportunity to clarify his company's intentions. In the interview he stated that Derwent London were not a retail developer: "We don’t want to create more cafes on this development. We are not a retail developer. We do office refurbishments. Ninety percent of our work is refurbishment. Take a look at Totfield House, Whitfield Street. That’s typically what we do: improve a building. Increasing footfall is not what we want to do. It won’t profit us to introduce retail. In fact we are better off not doing retail." However, he did confirm that Derwent London had formed and was financially backing the Fitzrovia Partnership: a business partnership with ARUP, Make Architects, and British Telecom and with the backing of the London Borough of Camden.[20]

Business

In its early days it was largely an area of well-to-do tradesmen and craft workshops, with Edwardian mansion blocks built by the Quakers to allow theatre employees to be close to work. Nowadays property uses are diverse, but Fitzrovia is still well known for its fashion industry, now mainly comprising wholesalers and HQs of the likes of Arcadia Group. New media outfits have replaced the photographic studios of the 1970s–90s, often housed in warehouses built to store the changing clothes of their original industry — fashion. Charlotte Street was for many years the home of the British advertising industry and is now known for its many and diverse restaurants. Today the district still houses several major advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA as well as Fallon, Dare Digital and Target Media Group. However, the modular ex-BT building occupied by McCann-Erickson was demolished in 2006 after the firm moved to an art deco home in Bloomsbury.

A number of television production and post-production companies are based in the area, MTV Networks Europe, Nickelodeon, rogue and CNN Europe being headquartered here. ITN used to be based at 48 Wells Street during the 1980s, with its Factual Department still housed on Mortimer Street, and Channel 4 was briefly situated on Charlotte Street. Dennis Publishing is based close by, on Cleveland Street, and London's Time Out magazine and City Guide is created and edited on Tottenham Court Road on the eastern border of Fitzrovia. Many other media companies are based within the area, including Informa and Digital UK.

Reflecting Fitzrovia's connections with the avant-garde (see below) the area has a concentration of commercial art galleries and dealers.

HOK, an international firm of architects, interior designers, landscape architects, urban planners and advanced strategists are based in the Qube on Whitfield Street, along with MAKE Architects. Derwent London also have a showroom in Whitfield Street.[21]. Derwent London own about one million square feet of property in Fitzrovia: about one fifth of their total portfolio [22]. A number of structural engineering consultants are based in offices on Newman Street and the world headquarters of Arup is on Fitzroy St although they own many of the surrounding buildings (which are in the process of being redeveloped into modern offices). There were once many hospitals (including Middlesex Hospital, which closed in 2006, and St Luke's Hospital for the Clergy, now re-opened after refurbishment). A handful of minor embassies (El Salvador, Mozambique, Turkmenistan and Croatia) nestle amongst the many and varied public houses. Retail use spills into parts of Fitzrovia from Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, which are two of the principal shopping streets in central London.

The Fitzrovia Partnership was formed in 2009 as a "a business led initiative bringing together local businesses to add value and make a tangible difference to the management of Fitzrovia."[23] The Fitzrovia Partnership part-sponsored, along with local restaurants and bars, Christmas lights in the Charlotte Street conservation area. The Fitzrovia News described the installation of lights in the trees as an act of "vandalism".[24]

Arts

Fitzrovia was a notable artistic and bohemian centre from a period dating roughly from the mid 1920s until the present day. Amongst those known to have lived locally and frequented public houses in the area such as the Fitzroy Tavern and the Wheatsheaf are Augustus John, Quentin Crisp, Dylan Thomas, Aleister Crowley, the racing tipster Prince Monolulu, Nina Hamnett and George Orwell. Another pub in the area, the Newman Arms, features in Orwell's novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Keep the Aspidistra Flying and in the Michael Powell film Peeping Tom. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester lived in a house on Tottenham Street that now has a Blue Plaque. George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf lived at different times in the same house at 29 Fitzroy Square. Thomas Paine's Rights of Man was published during his residence at 154 New Cavendish Street, in reply to Edmund Burke (author of Reflections on the Revolution in France), who lived at 18 Charlotte Street. Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine lived for a time in Howland Street in a house on a site now occupied by offices. The notable Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh and, later, the writer of London's City of Spades & Absolute Beginners: Colin MacInnes in the 60's & 70's at (28 Tottenham Street) in the home of their publisher.

In Saul Bellow's The Dean's December, the eponym, Corde dines at the Étoile, Charlotte Street, on his trips to London, and thinks he "could live happily ever after on Charlotte Street";[25] Ian McEwan quotes this in Saturday;[26] McEwan lives in Fitzroy Square, and his novel takes place in the area.

Chartist meetings were hosted in the area, some attended by Karl Marx, who is known to have been to venues at Charlotte Street, Tottenham Street and Rathbone Place. The area became a ganglion of Chartist activities after the Reform Act 1832 and was host to a number of working men's clubs including The Communist Club at 49 Tottenham Street.

The UFO Club, home to Pink Floyd during their spell as the house band of psychedelic London, was held in the basement of 31 Tottenham Court Road. Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix also played at the Speakeasy on Margaret Street and Bob Dylan made his London debut at the King & Queen pub on Foley Street. Oxford Street's 100 Club is a major hot-bed for music from the Sixties to the present day, and has roots in 1970s Britain's burgeoning Punk rock movement. The band Coldplay formed in Ramsay Hall, a University College London accommodation on Maple Street in Fitzrovia. Boy George lived in a squat in Carburton Street in 1981 prior to his success and Neil Howson Age of Chance lived in Cleveland Street around the same time.

Fitzrovia is also the location of Pollock's Toy Museum, home to erstwhile popular Toy Theatre, at 1 Scala Street.

At the back of Pollocks and in the next block was the site in 1772 of the Scala Theatre, Tottenham Street – then known as the Cognoscenti Theatre – but it had many names over history: the King's Concert Rooms, the New Theatre, the Regency Theatre, the West London Theatre, the Queen's Theatre, the Fitzroy Theatre, the Prince of Wales and the Royal Theatre until its demolition in 1903 when the Scala Theatre was built on the site for Frank Verity and modelled on La Scala in Milan. It was home to music hall, ballet and pantomime. Before its demolition in 1969, to make way for the office block and hotel that exists now, it was used inside for the filming in 1964 of the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night, the Mr Universe World competitions, and Sotheby's Auction in 1968 of the Diaghilev costumes and curtains. It was also briefly in the 70's, in the basement of the office block, the site of the Scala Cinema and later still of Channel 4 Television. The branch of Bertorelli's Italian Restaurant on Charlotte Street was prominently featured in the film Sliding Doors

Housing and community action

Fitzrovia Festival
Fitzrovia Festival poster 1974

During the 1960s a large amount of housing was lost in Fitzrovia and the residential community felt under threat from new large-scale building. The threat from the developers spurned the residents in the early 1970s to form a number of voluntary associations to conserve the best of Fitzrovia and resist the efforts of developers to change its character.

In 1970 the Charlotte Street Association was formed to campaign for more housing and to preserve the unique character of the area. A neighbourhood newspaper the Tower (later re-named Fitzrovia News) was produced in 1973 by a group of activists. The first Fitzrovia Festival was held in 1973 with the theme “The people live here!” in an effort to demonstrate that among the offices, restaurants and cafes there was a residential community that wanted its voice heard and in 1974, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association was formed and raised money to create a neighbourhood centre in a disused glass shop on the corner of Tottenham Street and Goodge Place: The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre was opened in 1975. The building is Grade II listed.[27]

The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre remains the focus of community action and a place for the various voluntary groups to meet and is the office of the Fitzrovia News which is produced four times a year by volunteers drwn from the residential community. An advice and information service and community projects are also delivered from the Neighbourhood Centre.[28]

The Fitzrovia News (along with its predecessor The Tower) has taken a critical stance on many issues affecting Fitzrovia and the people who live and work there. Recently the paper was accused of misrepresenting the ambitions of the company Derwent London plc and its ambitions in Fitzrovia [29]. The paper has even drawn criticism from within its own ranks of contributors for its coverage of local issues [30]

The Fitzrovia News successfully campaigned with local residents to have Christmas lights removed from mature trees in the Charlotte Street conservation area.[31]

Books

Two books have been published about Fitzrovia. Characters of Fitzrovia by Mike Pentelow & Marsha Rowe, 2001, (Pimlico) ISBN 0712680152 and Fitzrovia by Nick Bailey (Historical Publications), 1981, ISBN 0950365629 (out of print)

Education

Southbank International School has two of its campuses located within the area, one on Portland Place and another on the northern end of Conway street (just off Warren Street). The Conway campus houses students from grade 11 and 12 where they study the IB Diploma Programme.

Transport

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Nearest railway station

Paddington, Marylebone, Kings Cross and St Pancras railway stations are all relatively close to Fitzrovia although none (including Euston) are within the boundary of the area.

Nearest tube stations

References

  1. ^ Fitzroy Tavern from pubs.com accessed 01-12-2009
  2. ^ The Fitzroy: Autobiography of a London Tavern - Fiber and Williams (Book Guild Ltd, London) 1985.
  3. ^ http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/march2006/goulding.html accessed 29-11-2009
  4. ^ Willetts, Paul 2003 Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: the bizarre life of the writer, actor, Soho Dandy Julian Maclaren-Ross, p140
  5. ^ Maclaren-Ross, Julian, (2004) Collected Memoirs, with an introduction by Paul Willetts, Black Spring Press,page 303
  6. ^ Fitzrovia News archive and distribution map. Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street, London W1T 4RX
  7. ^ Bailey, Nick, 1981 Fitzrovia. Historical Publications and Camden History Society, page 10
  8. ^ Pentelow, M & Rowe, M Characters of Fitzrovia 2001, Felix Dennis: Pimlico Press, page 14
  9. ^ Camden New Journal accessed 15-11-09
  10. ^ Former Middlesex hospital site in London back on market 03.03.10 By Jennifer Rigby, Property Week.com accessed 7 March 2010
  11. ^ Garden allotments on Middlesex Hospital site in jeopardy, Fitzrovia News, 7 March 2010 accessed 7 March 2010
  12. ^ Derwent London Fitzrovia portfolio accessed 6 March 2010
  13. ^ Project banks on Fitzrovia’s bohemian appeal By Daniel Thomas, Property Correspondent, Financial Times, November 6 2009 accessed 6 March 2010
  14. ^ Derwent plots Fitzrovia revamp 06.11.09 By Jennifer Rigby, Property Week accessed 6 March 2010
  15. ^ London Evening Standard accessed 6 March 2010
  16. ^ Derwent London Fitzrovia Exhibition accessed 6 March 2010
  17. ^ Your Fitzrovia, 2009 Derwent London accessed 6 March 2010
  18. ^ Project banks on Fitzrovia’s bohemian appeal By Daniel Thomas, Property Correspondent, November 6 2009 accessed 6 March 2010
  19. ^ Plan to turn "little oasis" into busy retail precinct, Fitzrovia News, issue 115 winter 2009/2010 accessed 6 March 2010
  20. ^ Don't get me wrong: Simon Silver of Derwent London plc talks to Fitzrovia News, Fitzrovia News, 116 Spring 2010 accessed 6 March 2010
  21. ^ Derwent London Fitzrovia Exhibition
  22. ^ Your Fitzrovia, Derwent London, 2009 accessed 7 March 2010
  23. ^ fitzroviapartnership.com accessed 6 March 2010
  24. ^ Trees Vandalised for fairy lights, Fitzrovia News, 116 Spring 2010 accessed 7 March 2010
  25. ^ p. 81
  26. ^ p. 123
  27. ^ accessed 05/12/2009
  28. ^ Pentelow, M & Rowe, M Characters of Fitzrovia 2001, Felix Dennis: Pimlico Press; Fitzrovia News Archive, Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street, London W1T 4RX
  29. ^ Don't get me wrong: Simon Silver of Derwent London plc talks to Fitzrovia News, Fitzrovia News, 116 Spring 2010 accessed 6 March 2010
  30. ^ [1] accessed 7 March 2010]
  31. ^ Fitzrovia News online 3 March 2010 accessed 7 March 2010

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