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Coordinates: 51°30′41″N 0°07′08″W / 51.511389°N 0.118889°W / 51.511389; -0.118889

Strand is located in Greater London

 Strand shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ3052280893
London borough Westminster
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district WC2
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly West Central
List of places: UK • England • London

The Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. It is just over 3/4 of a mile long.[1] It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length has been longer than this.

At the east end of the street are two old churches, St Mary-le-Strand and St. Clement Danes now, due to road-widening, situated on islands in the middle of the road. The length of road from St Mary's church eastwards up to St Clement's was widened in 1900 and subsumes the former Holywell Street which forked from Strand and ran parallel with it to the north.[2] In former times the eastern part of Strand was part of the Liberty of the Savoy and had administrative autonomy, distinct from both the City of London to the east and the City of Westminster to the west.[3]

Two tube stations were once named Strand: the former Piccadilly line Strand tube station, now called Aldwych but no longer in use, and the former "Strand tube station" on the Northern Line now part of Charing Cross tube station. "Strand Bridge" was also the name given to Waterloo Bridge during construction, it was renamed for its official opening on the second anniversary of the victory.





Strand, WC2, City of Westminster

The Strand derives its name from the Old English word for "shore" or "river bank". (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Finnish, German and Dutch have all derived their word for "beach" from the same Germanic root; many beaches in Ireland are still called "strands".)

This 1593 map shows "The Strand" as the principal route - parallel to the River, from the City in the east, to Whitehall in the west.

The modern Strand follows the course of Akeman Street, a Roman road running parallel to the river, towards Chiswick from Roman London.[4] Together with Aldwych, it has been a major settlement area since Saxon times outside of the old Roman city walls. In the Middle Ages it became the principal route between the separate settlements of the City of London (the civil and commercial centre) and the Royal Palace of Westminster (the national political centre). In the archaeological record, there is considerable evidence of occupation to the north of Aldwych, but much along the former foreshore has been covered by rubble from the demolition of the Tudor Somerset Place, a former Royal residence, to create a large platform for the building of the first Somerset House, in the 17th century.[5]


From the twelfth century onwards large mansions lined Strand including several palaces inhabited by bishops and royal courtiers, mostly located on the south side, with their own river gates and landings directly on the Thames.[6] Those on the south side of the street were, from east to west:

A 19th century print showing St Mary-Le-Strand and the Strand front of Somerset House.

On the north side of the street were:

  • Cecil House, also called Exeter House or Burghley House, was on the north side of Strand; it was built in the 16th century by Lord Burghley as an expansion of an existing Tudor house.
  • Bedford House.
  • Wimbledon House.

Apart from the rebuilt Somerset House, all these grand buildings are now gone, and are overlaid by later streets lined by humbler tenements. These were built by property developers on the sites of the old mansions, from the seventeenth century onwards. A New Exchange was built on part of the gardens of Durham House, in 1608-9, facing Strand. This high-class shopping centre enjoyed considerable popularity but was eventually destroyed in 1737.[10] From this time the area acquired a dissolute but lively reputation and became notable for its coffee houses, low taverns and cheap women.

Later history

In the 19th century much of Strand was rebuilt and the houses to the south no longer backed onto the Thames, separated from the river by the Victoria Embankment constructed 1865-70. This moved the river some 50 metres (164.0 ft) further away. Strand became a newly fashionable address and many avant-garde writers and thinkers gathered here, among them Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and the scientist Thomas Henry Huxley. 142 Strand was the home of radical publisher and physician John Chapman[11], who not only published many of his contemporaries from this house during the 1850s, but also edited the Westminster Review for 42 years. The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a house guest. A lower grade of publishing was promoted at the east end of Strand where Holywell Street was the hub of Victorian pornography trade, until the street was physically eliminated by Strand road widening in 1900.[12] Virginia Woolf also writes about the Strand in several of her essays, including "Street Haunting: A London Adventure." T.S. Eliot alludes to the Strand in his 1905 poem "At Graduation" and John Masefield also refers to a "jostling in the Strand" in his well-known poem "On Growing Old".


Strand, by Coutts Bank (May 2001)

Strand was the hub of Victorian theatre and nightlife. However, redevelopment of the East Strand and the construction of the Aldwych and Kingsway roads in the 1890s and early years of the twentieth century led to the loss of the Opera Comique, the Globe, the Royal Strand Theatre and the nearby Olympic Theatre. Other lost theatres on Strand include the Gaiety Theatre (closed in 1939, building demolished in 1957), Terry's Theatre (converted into a cinema 1910, demolished 1923), and the Tivoli (closed 1914 and later demolished; in 1923 the Tivoli Cinema opened on the site and was closed and demolished in 1957 to make way for Peter Robinson's store).

Surviving theatres include the Adelphi Theatre, the Savoy Theatre and Vaudeville Theatre and, closely adjacent in Wellington Street, the Lyceum Theatre.

Popular culture

The Strand is the subject of a famous music hall song Let's All Go Down the Strand (words and music by Harry Castling and C. W. Murphy), which dilates on its merits as a place of entertainment and relaxation as compared to the Rhineland:

Strand, Looking Eastwards from Exeter Exchange, the church in the distance is St. Clement Danes (oil painting [ca. 1822] in the collection of the Museum of London

One night a half 'a dozen tourists
Spent the night together in Trafalgar Square.
A fortnight's tour on the Continent was planned,
And each had his portmanteau in his hand.
Down the Rhine they meant to have a picnic
Til' Jones said, "I must decline--"
"Boys you'll be advised by me
to stay away from Germany--
What's the good a' going down the Rhine."

Let's all go down the Strand -- Have a banana!
Let's all go down the Strand!

I'll be the leader, you can march behind.
Come with me and see what we can find!
Let's all go down the Strand -- Have a banana!
Oh! What a happy land.
That's the place fer fun and noise,
All among the girls and boys.
So let's all go down to the Strand.

The song has inspired a version by the group Blur[13]. The lines "Let's all go down the Strand" and "Have a banana!" are also referenced by English comedian Bill Bailey during his stage routine on Cockney music.

John Betjeman used the title of the song for a television documentary made for Associated-Rediffusion in 1967,[14] and in the same year Margaret Williams for a stage comedy.[15] The Strand was also the locale where Burlington Bertie, the hero of another popular music hall song, sauntered along "like a toff".

The Strand Magazine was named after the street, and began publishing in 1891. A BBC World Service arts and culture radio series is called The Strand.[16] The World Service broadcasts from Bush House situated on Strand.

Other notable buildings

Old Twinings Shop on the Strand


St. Clement Danes Church, near Fleet Street

Two of the churches on Strand now stand on island sites amidst the traffic. St. Clement Danes is believed to date back to the 9th century, but the present building is mainly a 17th century work by Sir Christopher Wren. St Mary-le-Strand was designed by James Gibbs and completed in 1717, to replace one demolished by Protector Somerset for building material for his adjacent Somerset House.

See also


  1. ^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 829
  2. ^ Harold Clunn (1970) The Face of London: 125-6
  3. ^ John Stow (1598) A Survey of London. Republished by Sutton 1994: 399-404
  4. ^ Archaeology: The Romano-British Period, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century (1969), pp. 64-74. Date accessed: 22 July 2008.
  5. ^ The Strand (southern tributaries)', Old and New London: Volume 3 (1878), pp. 63-84 accessed 22 July 2008
  6. ^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 829
  7. ^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 28
  8. ^ VCH: "Hospital of the Savoy"
  9. ^ Inn of the Bishops of Carlisle (London Online) accessed 22 July 2008
  10. ^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 539
  11. ^ Rosemary Ashton, 142 Strand: A Radical Address in Victorian London, (2006)
  12. ^ H. Montgomery Hyde (1964) A History of Pornography: 167-82
  13. ^ See Sunday Sunday.
  14. ^ Betjeman's London: Let's All Go Down the Strand (BFI) accessed 18 December 2008
  15. ^ Margaret Williams Let's All Go Down the Strand (Evans Plays, London 1967)
  16. ^ Arts and Culture ((BBC World Service) accessed 18 December 2008
  • Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson (1968) The Lost Theatres of London. Rupert Hart-Davis.


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