Oxford Street: The Rebuilding of Oxford Street

Pages 176-184

Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1980.

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The Rebuilding of Oxford Street

A special interest attaches to Oxford Street because something like a comprehensive plan for rebuilding appears to have been evolved here earlier than for any other portion of the Mayfair estate. West of Park Street, as we have seen, a plan devised by the Cundys for rebuilding Hereford Street as far as Camelford House with smart new houses with stabling in front towards Oxford Street, was with the second Marquess of Westminster for consideration in March 1863. (fn. 1) This plan also provided for the rebuilding of the range immediately east of Park Street, subsequently Nos. 489–497 (odd) Oxford Street, as shops with houses over; it was here that rebuilding first occurred to Thomas Cundy III's designs in 1865–6, with Hereford Gardens following on falteringly in 1866–74.

Had these substantial buildings survived today, it would be plain that the west end of Oxford Street was conceived under this plan as a unified essay in the Second Empire town-house style pioneered by Thomas Cundy III, just like his schemes for Grosvenor Place and Grosvenor Gardens under the Estate's contemporary plan for the improvement of that area. However, even what was built may have been only part of a grandiose plan to rebuild the whole of the estate's northern frontage in this style by patient stages, as a reproach to the rest of Oxford Street. There are two clues to this. One was a high, unanswered corner pavilion at No. 497 Oxford Street, which must have been intended to have its response elsewhere in the long frontage between North Audley Street and Park Street (fig. 45: see also Plate 27b in vol. XXXIX). The other was the treatment of two blocks further east, Nos. 407–413 and Nos. 415 and 417 at the corner with Duke Street. The former block, between Duke Street and Binney Street, survives and even in its altered state offers an impression of what Thomas Cundy III intended for Oxford Street. It was not built until 1870–4, but its western half (Nos. 411 and 413) was organized as early as 1863–4, at just the same time as the ranges further west.

The tenant here was Peter Squire, a high-class chemist who previously had premises on the site, and his correspondence with the Marquess explains why an initiative was so urgently needed in this part of Oxford Street. Squire was keen to carry out Cundy's design, 'notwithstanding that it far exceeds the expence originally contemplated', but added: 'it must be remembered that such a handsome and costly edifice will for many years be surrounded by a filthy market, fostered by the neighbouring householders, and the stall people, protected as they are by the Magistrates, set you at bold defiance to remove them'. Later, Squire reminded the Marquess that because of this overspill from St. George's Market he could not expect adequate rent, 'nor can it be supposed that the Public, which has for so many years been accustomed to walk on the North side of the Street, will be induced to change the route until the Street on the South side is rebuilt'. (fn. 2)

Thomas Cundy III's contributions to Oxford Street were confined to the elevations, so that lessees were allowed to have their own architects to plan their premises. But the fronts were very carefully worked out. In the course of negotiations over Squire's premises, entresols like those used over shops in Regent Street were considered and rejected. Terracotta was also prescribed for some of the cornice details, perhaps for durability and economy rather than texture; Cundy was to use similar small terracotta features in Grosvenor Gardens, and they may have occurred also on Hereford Gardens and Nos. 489–497 Oxford Street, though in all these ranges the main dressings were of Portland stone. More significant on all these buildings was the use of red brick, which had hitherto hardly been employed on the estate but was to become virtually compulsory after the death of the second Marquess in 1869. Another and interesting provision for Squire's building, eventually not insisted upon, was that the brickwork should have five courses to the foot instead of the orthodox four. At shop level, the facing material for the fronts was to be red granite, a specification that remained standard for rebuilding along Oxford Street even when Cundy had been supplanted. (fn. 3)

Had the third Marquess been content to allow Thomas Cundy III to continue with this scheme of rebuilding, the uniform frontage here adumbrated might have become a reality. But in the years after 1869 it gradually became clear that the new Marquess favoured greater variety, though at first he allowed Cundy to continue designing the new fronts. As has been said, circumstances delayed the execution of Nos. 411 and 413, so that the other corner block with Duke Street, Nos. 415 and 417 (now demolished), was carried out at much the same time. Here again Cundy supplied red-brick elevations, but the ornamental elements were reduced and bay windows— quite alien to the tenor of the previous designs—were allowed. Next door, the Deaf and Dumb Church (St. Saviour's) was erected in the same years by Arthur Blomfield and this, though in red brick, was naturally Gothic and contributed to the growing discrepancy in style of the new Oxford Street (Plate 46a). Cundy's Parisian approach was now virtually doomed. The next opportunity for rebuilding was in 1875–6 at Nos. 431 and 433, when Cundy seems to have been asked to supply something Jacobean or Queen Anne. But the result was so unconvincing that after this he retired from the architectural fray on the estate and acted solely as surveyor. It was, however, probably Cundy who recommended J. T. Wimperis as architect for Nos. 443–451 in 1876–8. This was important as the first fully Queen Anne range on the estate, and among the earlier examples of the style's use in speculative building. Though its architectural merits were moderate, Wimperis was careful not to depart too far in his proportions and even his details from Cundy's lead nearby, showing that Queen Anne and Second Empire were not quite the poles apart that their several champions sometimes claimed.

Queen Anne remained more or less the style for the rest of the rebuildings in Oxford Street, though the first Duke, ever a latitudinarian in architecture, would allow quite a divergence of approaches. At the purer end of the scale were Nos. 399–405 (demolished), designed in 1880–2 by Joseph S. Moye with distinctly Dutch gables and much cut-brick ornament (Plate 46c). More casual was the stylistic approach of Thomas Chatfeild Clarke, who with his son Howard designed no fewer than seven buildings in Oxford Street for the Duke, of which only the large Nos. 385–397 (of 1887–9) remains. Quite why the Chatfeild Clarkes were so favoured here is not known, but they doubtless recommended themselves to the Duke as surveyors with a large commercial practice in the City and an informed interest in Liberal politics. The styles and standards of the six buildings they undertook between No. 461 and No. 487 were variable; but Nos. 475 and 477, which veered towards Gothic, had architectural merit, and Nos. 479–483, built as showrooms for a firm of coachbuilders, were of technical interest (Plate 47b). How far the Chatfeild Clarkes designed behind the front elevations is usually unclear.

In 1880 the street's numbering was altered, the Grosvenor estate as far as the corner with Park Street being now allotted Nos. 381–497 (odd). By 1890 almost all the southern frontage west of Davies Street had been rebuilt. One exception was at the top of Davies Street itself, where the present street alignment had to await an exchange of land and the building of Bond Street Tube Station in 1898–1900; an undistinguished block was put up on the corner site here, just outside the Grosvenor estate, in 1906–8. Close to Marble Arch, Camelford House and Somerset House were replaced from 1913 by Frank Verity's block of flats at Nos. 139–140 Park Lane (Plate 48a in vol. XXXIX) and his Pavilion Cinema (now demolished) facing Oxford Street. Besides these, just two small plots remained to be filled, and both were given good buildings in Arts and Crafts taste: Nos. 453–459 by Read and Macdonald (1900–2), and Nos. 439 and 441, where in 1907–8 brick fronts were first rejected in favour of stone by Balfour and Turner (Plates 46b, 47a).

Rebuilding seems to have had less effect on the commercial character of Oxford Street than of some other streets on the estate. A reduction in the number of food shops was greatest in the St. George's Market district close to Davies Street; but this decline, from eight butchers recorded in the estate's sector of Oxford Street in 1841 to one in the directories fifty years later, and from six to two cheesemongers over the same period, had begun before rebuilding got under way. The better-capitalized trades naturally had greater powers of survival, partly because their workshops were rarely located along the street itself. They were often more severely restricted by rebuildings in the smaller streets behind. Yet it is noteworthy that even in 1884–6 the coach-builders Thrupp and Maberly did not take the opportunity of rebuilding to move their workshops to some less constricted faraway site, preferring still to concentrate their showrooms and works on the ground offered by the Estate at Nos. 421–429 Oxford Street. On the whole the scatter of trades in this part of the street was not so very different in 1890 from what it had been fifty years before. The only speciality discernible besides coaches was leather goods; the 1890 directory records two leather-breeches-makers, four bootmakers, and one saddler.

The first Duke had however taken characteristic care to suppress all but one of the public houses on his sector of Oxford Street, a thoroughfare deemed especially in need of redemption because hundreds of workmen walked its length every day on their way to and from their place of employment. By way of compensation, he supported the Reverend J. W. Ayre's attempt in 1876 to establish a public house 'on the Gothenburg principle' in place of the Rose and Crown at the east corner of Gilbert Street. This building had already enjoyed an eventful history, for in 1844, shortly after its erection and fitting-up 'in a most gorgeous style, and at a vast expense, for what is generally termed "a gin palace"', retribution fell in the shape of a calamitous fire which claimed six lives. Gin, which had been pumped into one of many well-stocked spirit vats, got into the gas and promptly set the Rose and Crown ablaze. (fn. 4) Under the Gothenburg system, pubs were to be proof against this kind of disaster, as private profits on spirits were to be strictly limited, so that managers were inhibited from 'pushing' sales. But the attempt soon proved another débâcle. One of the prospective trustees, the builder John Finch of Duke Street, fell under the imputation 'that his mother was kept on the Sacramental Alms list of the parish during his Churchwardenship, and that he denies that she is his mother', and he had to be passed over. When the 'Gothenburg Refreshment House' was opened in October 1876 (the Duke having agreed to accept substantially less than the economic rent), the working man refused to be enticed into it, and after only four months the trustees were wanting to transfer the lease to the People's Café Company, which would pay the full rent. (fn. 5)

With the building of Selfridges, started on the opposite side of the road between Duke Street and Orchard Street in 1908, the impact of the unified department store began to be felt in this part of Oxford Street, and soon after 1918 commercial pressures built up on the Grosvenor estate's sector. St. Saviour's Church for the Deaf and Dumb, leased by the first Duke at a nominal rent, was significantly first to succumb, ejected in 1922 in favour of the first part of a capable building (Nos. 415–419) in the new commercial style by G. Thrale Jell (Plate 48b in vol. XXXIX). To its west, the less interesting Keysign House (Nos. 421–429) was erected in 1937–9. But by that time the scale of the earlier buildings had been dwarfed by Hereford House (1928–30) further west, which destroyed the houses and street of Hereford Gardens and ate up the welcome open space between them and Oxford Street (Plate 47c).

Since the last war just two rebuildings have occurred, one of Nos. 399–405, the other on a much larger scale all the way between North Audley Street and Park Street, of Nos. 455–497. Though in the same international idiom, they display the difference between sensitive infilling and adhering to the street line (all that was possible at Nos. 399–405), and 'comprehensive redevelopment'. At Nos. 455–497, a strong cantilever over the shops is used as a visual principle to separate them off entirely from what is above them, namely student flats towards North Audley Street and offices towards Park Street. At the time of writing, Bond Street Tube Station together with the large corner site next to Davies Street is being rebuilt, leaving Nos. 385–397,407–413,431–437,439 and 441, and 443–451 as testimonies to the Grosvenors' previous reconstruction of Oxford Street. Those buildings that remain have all suffered from a fate common to major shopping streets, the cavalier treatment of shop fronts without regard to the character of the buildings above. Such changes have made even fine buildings like Nos. 439 and 441 as commonplace as others of lesser interest.

Nos. 375–383 (odd)

Nos. 375–383 (odd) are at present (1978) being rebuilt together with the premises behind in Davies and Weighhouse Streets. The site has a complicated history, since the original alignment of the top of Davies Street did not follow the main course of the street but was skewed back north-westwards along the line of South Molton Lane. Only a small part of the frontage to Oxford Street was ever on the Grosvenor estate, and when the improvements which led to the present layout were made in 1898–1900 in connexion with the new Central London Railway, the freehold of this small site was disposed of.

The Central London Railway from Bayswater to the City passing under the length of Oxford Street, was first proposed in 1890 by a consortium working through the solicitors Ashurst, Morris, Crisp and Company, who considered applying for ground at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane for a station. The Duke's solicitor, H. T. Boodle, thought 'the railway was not wanted and could not pay', and the Estate was among the opponents who helped scotch the Bill in July 1890. A revival of the scheme was soon mooted, and this time the promoters took care to consult the Duke's interests by enquiring as to his 'wishes in improving the northern end of Davies Street', with a view to siting a station here. At first the Duke signed a petition against the Bill, but his attitude appears to have changed early in 1891 on discovering that the new promoters included several financiers close to the Prince of Wales, of whom the two most important, Ernest Cassel and H. L. Bischoffsheim, resided upon the estate. (fn. 6) Instead, clauses were inserted safeguarding the interests of the Grosvenor, Portland and Portman estates, and the Bill became law in August 1891. (fn. 7) The Act provided inter alia that if the Central London Railway Company decided to build a station near Davies Street, it should be obliged, in exchange for the necessary powers of compulsory purchase of land on the Grosvenor estate, to straighten the top of the street. (fn. 8)

Building of the railway only began following the company's appointment of a new and influential board in 1895. In the following year they considered excluding the station at Davies Street and the street improvements there from their programme of works, as they were not obliged to proceed with this part of the undertaking. But after pressure from the Vestry, a new agreement between the Duke and the company was negotiated in June 1897. By this arrangement the Duke presented to the company the site scheduled to be purchased under the Act of 1891, together with an additional small piece of land between this and the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation's premises in Davies Street; in return, the company agreed to carry out the street improvements and build the station. (fn. 9) Work began in 1898 and was still not quite finished when the Prince of Wales opened the Central London Railway in June 1900. This was partly because of difficulties following the London County Council's objection to a slight narrowing of the proposed width at the top of Davies Street. However the new Bond Street Station was opened in September 1900, by which time the street improvements were probably complete. (fn. 10)

The surplus land between the station and Davies Street, not being wanted by the company, was offered to the Estate, which, however, declined to buy it. It was eventually sold in 1906 to a Mr. Henry Bailey, who made an agreement whereby the builders Perry Brothers took a lease of the site with an option to purchase and erect shops with chambers over. An undistinguished building in red brick and terracotta (with a Lyons Corner House on the ground floor) was duly erected here in 1906–8 to designs by William Arthur Lewis; (fn. 11) it was demolished in the early 1970's.

The Bond Street Tube Station itself had, despite the first Duke's reservations, been built with a façade of the terracotta and glazed bricks used elsewhere along the Central London Railway. (fn. 12) However in the 1920's the station was largely rebuilt. In 1923 escalators were installed and in 1927 a new booking-hall was built. A low but distinctive fascia towards Oxford Street was also erected at about this time to the design of Charles Holden of Adams, Holden and Pearson, with a plain facing of Portland stone and an overhanging canopy with the characteristic broad blue band later so common on Underground stations. The date traditionally given for this work is 1924, which puts it among the earliest of Holden's undertakings on London's Underground network. (fn. 13) This façade disappeared in 1976, when the station was again rebuilt to allow for the construction of the Jubilee Line.

Nos. 385–397 (odd)

Nos. 385–397 (odd) were rebuilt as a range of shops with four storeys above in 1887–9 to the designs of T. Chatfeild Clarke and Son. The leases here having expired in 1886, Chatfeild Clarke was chosen as architect by the Duke for the rebuilding tenants agreed by the Estate: Edwin and Albert Marples (Nos. 385–389); George Ward, fruiterer (Nos. 391 and 393); and George Trenchard Cox, grocer (Nos. 395 and 397). Clarke's design was soon approved, and building took place under E. Lawrance and Sons for the Marples and for Ward, and Charles Cox of Hackney for George Trenchard Cox. Lawrances' tenders for their parts came to just over £9,500. The range has early French Renaissance detail, especially at roof level, and is built of red Bracknell bricks with dressings of Ancaster stone. (fn. 14) The shop fronts have naturally been much altered.

Nos. 399–405 (odd)

Nos. 399–405 (odd), covering the Oxford Street frontage between Gilbert Street and Binney Street, consist of a compact block of offices and flats designed for Lloyds Bank by Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners. (fn. 15) Built in 1967–70, it is square in outline and faced in concrete panels, but relieved from monotony by a first floor of unusual height with a recessed storey immediately above.

The previous building on the site was a range of shops with chambers above leased to Edwin Hollis, a pork butcher, designed by his architect, Joseph S. Moye, and built by H. Saala in 1880–2. Saala's tender was for £10,672. The elevations were in an elaborate Queen Anne style, with granite piers between the shops and plenty of ornament on the red-brick upper storeys (fn. 16) (Plate 46c).

Nos. 407–413 (odd)

Nos. 407–413 (odd) are now the forlorn survivors of Thomas Cundy III's considerable contributions to Oxford Street. The history of rebuilding here goes back to 1861, when Peter Squire wished to reconstruct his high-class chemist's shop at the corner with Duke Street. His application was deferred until 1863, and in the following year Cundy produced an elevation, details of which were settled after prolonged negotiation with Squire and his architect George Lansdown. Then Squire was granted a postponement, so that he could include the next-door premises in his rebuilding. The building contracts for the enlarged site, covering the present Nos. 411 and 413 Oxford Street, were finally exchanged in October 1869 and Cundy's design for this part was built without significant alteration in 1870–2. Squire's builder was J. Morter, and the materials were red Essex bricks, with some dressings in Portland stone and some in Doulton's terracotta; the carver was a Mr. Estcourt. (fn. 17)

On the eastern half of the site (Nos. 407 and 409) Samuel Mart, a fruiterer, applied for rebuilding terms in March 1872. Later in the year Cundy submitted an elevation extending the fronts of Nos. 411 and 413, to which Mart's architects Tolley and Dale (who had already built at Nos. 415 and 417) had to conform. Alfred Thomas of New Cross undertook the construction in 1873–4. (fn. 18)

Cundy's design for this short range was essentially similar to that for the larger Nos. 489–497 Oxford Street and his purely residential range at Hereford Gardens. Since these have now disappeared, Nos. 407–413 has an interest disproportionate to its present appearance. Its display of red brick, terracotta dressings and prominent roofs heralded the kind of treatment that was to prevail on the estate throughout the first Duke's day, even if Cundy's characteristic French and Italian detailing was to be jettisoned.

Nos. 415–419 (odd)

Nos. 415–419 (odd), a commercial building erected in stages between 1923 and 1935, occupy the sites of two previous buildings. Nearer Duke Street, at Nos. 415 and 417, was a group of shops with chambers over, designed by Tolley and Dale with fronts by Thomas Cundy III, and erected by J. M. Macey in 1870–1. The corner site was the responsibility of Thomas B. Linscott, a baker, but there was some difficulty with No. 417, which Macey eventually built on his own account. Cundy's elevations and materials were similar to those at Nos. 407–413, but less ornamental. (fn. 19) The other building to occupy this site was the church of St. Saviour's, an important building at the corner with Lumley Street which is separately discussed.

The church site (No. 419) was the first to fall vacant, and in April 1923 G. Thrale Jell produced designs for shops, showrooms and offices here for Wotton and Son. The elevation that he submitted to the London County Council was substantially different from that built by F. D. Huntington Limited in 1923–4, but both were meant to be part of a scheme for the whole block. No. 419 soon became Selfridges' wholesale department. (fn. 20) At the other end of the site, No. 415 was rebuilt for Horne Brothers in 1925, but the linking portion at No. 417 had to wait until 1935. (fn. 21) In both cases the architects were Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie, but so far as is known they carried out Jell's elevations. The range forms one homogeneous block, with well-disposed metal windows between stone-fronted piers and rounded corners, and showing in a pared-down version the influence of Frank Verity (Plate 48b in vol. XXXIX). In 1930–2 the freehold of the building was sold by the Grosvenor Estate.

St. Saviour's Church for the Deaf and Dumb

St. Saviour's Church for the Deaf and Dumb (Plate 46a, fig. 44: see also Plate 29c in vol. XXXIX). This church, built in 1870–4 and demolished in 1923, owed its existence entirely to the exertions of one of the most active Victorian charitable societies, the (Royal) Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb. The Association had been founded in 1854 to systematize the works of assistance and education begun in 1841 by the Institution for the Employment, Relief and Religious Instruction of the Adult Deaf and Dumb. By 1870, under the guidance of the Reverend Samuel Smith, for many years chaplain and secretary to the Association, it ministered to some two thousand deaf and dumb people living in London and sorely needed a permanent centre. In 1860 an informal committee began to propagandize for the erection of the church, on the grounds that the secular character of the rooms used for services led to a 'want of proper reverence' on the part of some of those attending. The Association at first opposed this suggestion, but soon fell in with it and set up a building fund. (fn. 22) By 1867 over £2,500 had been received and sites began to be considered. One in the Somers Town district was being negotiated for in 1869, when it was announced that the Marquess of Westminster was prepared to offer the plot at the corner of Oxford Street and Lumley (then Queen) Street for sixty years at a nominal rent of ten shillings per year. (fn. 23)

Figure 44:

St. Saviour's Church (demolished), plan

The principal intermediary between the Association and the Estate in this negotiation had been Lord Ebury, brother of the second Marquess and for many years a prominent trustee and vice-president of the Association. The unusually favourable terms were ratified on behalf of the Estate by Earl Grosvenor, who after succeeding his father in October 1869 continued to interest himself in the project. His request that the church should be 'a Gothic building of red brick with black lines, terra cotta etc.' with 'a suitable sloping roof' was largely heeded by the Association's architect, (Sir) Arthur Blomfield, who had been chosen by December 1869. (fn. 24) Blomfield was doubtless appointed because he was brother-in-law of one of the Association's most active trustees, Arthur Henry Bather, who was the deaf husband of Lucy Elizabeth Blomfield ('Aunt Lucy'), the writer of children's books and daughter of the famous Bishop Blomfield of London. The choice of architect was a good one, since Arthur Blomfield was adept at the planning of cheap or special churches and showed his originality more often in these instances than in his run-of-the-mill ecclesiastical practice. For him, the commission led to further work on the Grosvenor estates, at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, St. Mark's, North Audley Street and St. Mary's, Bourdon Street.

The building was to occupy a frontage of fifty feet to Oxford Street and some seventy-five feet stretching back into Lumley Street; a small site to its south was reserved for the erection of a chaplain's residence. The plans, authorized by the new Marquess in January 1870, included a lecture-hall and committee-room in the basement. The church itself was to hold two hundred and fifty deaf and dumb, but could accommodate a rather bigger ordinary congregation, since it was agreed with the Reverend J. W. Ayre of St. Mark's that it should come under his jurisdiction and be available also for the poor of his parish. (fn. 25) In June 1870 an appeal for further funds was published in The Times over the names of several eminent clerics, peers and politicians (among them Lord Ebury, Lord Shaftesbury, Gladstone and A. P. Stanley) and on 5 July the foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales at the north end of the building facing Oxford Street. Present on this occasion were the Marquess and Marchioness of Westminster and Lord and Lady Ebury, while the Archbishop of York conducted the service. (fn. 26)

Visibility and light were the prime requirements for this unique church. To supply these, Blomfield took a leaf from the book of Victorian Nonconformist church-planning. Discarding strict orientation, he produced a centralized plan surmounted by a lofty octagon with pitched roof, and a small attached apsidal chancel to the north. The sturdy roof structure of the octagon was concealed by an elegant stellar vault in wood; the apse was also vaulted, but in stone. The main vault was to have been also of stone, but for this as for other more costly features funds did not suffice. The exterior formed an imposing if slightly disjointed design in red brick with Bath-stone dressings. The narrow apse projected abruptly in the centre of the Oxford Street front, with a slim bell turret close by in the north-west position, on which was a niche filled in 1877 with a statue of the Good Shepherd by Joseph Gawen, a deaf and dumb sculptor. In style, the church adhered to a strict thirteenth-century Gothic, with lancets, simple tracery and high tile roofs. Work began in 1870, the builder being J. M. Macey, but was delayed by lack of funds, and St. Saviour's was not formally opened until 1873 or 1874; the final cost came to something over £7,500. (fn. 27)

A small piece of land to the south of the church had been reserved for a clergy house, but because the Royal Association (as it became in 1874) lacked money Blomfield's simple design for the site could not be carried out until 1876–8, the builder again being Macey and Son. (fn. 28) The lease of church and residence, running from 1871, was finally exchanged in 1880. (fn. 29)

At first the church had few fittings of note, but these did include three stained-glass windows in the lancets of the apse by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The tall reredos in mosaic, depicting the Crucifixion with St. Mary and St. John, was a memorial to A. H. Bather; by the time of the church's demolition it was flanked on either side by formalized representations of trees, painted on gold grounds. The other chief feature of the chancel was the pair of ambones which Blomfield built into the dwarf screen beneath the chancel arch instead of a formal pulpit and lectern. The upper walls of the body of the church were left in plain brick. At one stage it was intended that a Mr. Maguire should fresco the bare lower walls, but this scheme did not get far. The fittings here included a number of tablets and a large painting of Christ healing the deaf and dumb by Thomas Davidson. At the south (liturgically west) end, a vestibule and small baptistry with permanent font dating from 1893 were surmounted by a deep raked gallery. In the lecture room below was a statuary group of Sir Arthur Fairbairn and his sister by Woolner. (fn. 30)

The church continued its work without interruption until 1920, when it was made plain to the Royal Association that their lease would not be renewed in 1931. The Grosvenor Estate was in fact anxious to get possession of the site for redevelopment and offered £10,000 for surrender of the lease at the end of 1920. This was refused, and in March 1921 the Association enquired what the cost of the freehold might be under the Act for Enfranchisement of Sites of Public Worship of 1920. An impossibly high price of £60,000 was suggested by Boodle, Hatfield and Company. The only alternative accommodation offered by the Estate was St. Philip's, Buckingham Palace Road, which the Association thought quite unsuitable. But the Estate remained intransigent on the questions of renewal or of the cheap sale of the freehold. In July 1922 the Association therefore agreed to surrender their lease for £15,000 and to move out at the end of the year. (fn. 31) The last service was held on 31 December 1922. The Royal Association kept a centre in Oxford Street, but their new purpose-built church, designed by Edward Maufe, was constructed at Acton. St. Saviour's, Armstrong Road, Acton, was opened in 1925 and contains a number of the fittings from the old church in Oxford Street.

Keysign House:

Nos. 421–429 (odd) is a plain office building with shops below of 1937–9, erected to designs by Trehearne and Norman Preston and Company for London County Freehold and Leasehold Properties Limited. (fn. 32) It replaced premises put up and partly occupied by Thrupp and Maberly, old-established coach-builders hereabouts and latterly motor-body builders. This earlier building, in a lumpy Tudor style and faced in red brick with terracotta dressings, had been erected in 1884–6, partly by William Brass and partly by Perry and Company, to the designs of Henry S. Legg and Arthur Kinder. (fn. 33)

Nos. 431 and 433

Nos. 431 and 433 are the first of an extant series of the first Duke's rebuildings in Oxford Street which have shallow sites backing on to North Row or on to the backs of the buildings there. The leases here fell out in 1874, and William Adkins, a linen-draper, was enticed from a nearby site to build houses with shops here. These were erected in 1875–6, and though neither Adkins' architect nor his builder seems to be recorded, it is fairly clear that Thomas Cundy III had much to do with the elevations. These, according to the Duke's decree, were to be 'red brick but somewhat different from the rest of Oxford Street'. The result is a curious and not very confident or pleasing essay in a gabled Jacobean style, utterly distinct from Cundy's French-inspired work elsewhere in the street. (fn. 34) (fn. c1)

Nos. 435 and 437

Nos. 435 and 437 were rebuilt in 1889–90 for the National Penny Bank, an institution devoted to 'the promotion of thrift among the working classes' which had in 1875 been allowed to occupy premises on this site at a low rent as a short-term measure. Eventually the bank authorities were asked to vacate or rebuild. They chose the latter course, and the present building was erected in a style approximating to that of Nos. 431 and 433, in the usual red brick with stone dressings (Plate 47a). The builder was William Scrivener. (fn. 35)

Nos. 439 and 441

Nos. 439 and 441 occupy one of the only two sites on the Grosvenor estate's frontage to Oxford Street to be rebuilt between 1890 and 1914. The site has a narrow front but is broader at the back towards North Row. In October 1903 John Wells, a silversmith, was permitted by the Grosvenor Board to rebuild on his own account in 1907, using Balfour and Turner as his architects. When the time came, Wells assigned his building agreement to George Neal, a contractor of Kilburn. Under Neal's auspices, the building was erected in 1907–8 and occupied by the National Radiator Company (fn. 36) (Plate 47a).

Towards North Row the building has a pleasing, simple brick character, but the Oxford Street elevation is an interesting if eccentric example of Balfour and Turner's later work. It is faced entirely in stone and relieved by arches to the main windows carried on granite columns. There is a small pediment over the centre at attic level. The ground floor has suffered from a new and inappropriate shop front.

Nos. 443–451 (odd) Oxford Street and No. 21 North Audley Street

Nos. 443–451 (odd) Oxford Street and No. 21 North Audley Street, the first speculative range of shops and chambers in the Queen Anne style to be built on the Mayfair estate, were erected in 1876–8 by Thomas Patrick to the designs of J. T. Wimperis. Thomas Patrick had with his father, Mark Patrick, previously built Nos. 489–497 Oxford Street 'and lost money on one house', and he was offered these five sites in compensation. The rents were calculated on the basis of £5 per foot frontage. (fn. 37) Wimperis was perhaps chosen as architect for this, his first work on the Grosvenor estate, because of connexions with Thomas Cundy III over projects in South Kensington. (fn. 38) The elements of his design, though parading the Queen Anne and red-brick motifs which the Duke approved, were not in essence far removed from Cundy's own earlier designs for Oxford Street. The granite facing which characterized the original shop fronts along this part of the street may still be seen at the corner with North Audley Street, which is also marked by a sharp tourelle.

This range can boast artistic occupants of some distinction. At No. 449 William Morris and Company had their showrooms from 1878 until 1918, and No. 447 was the office of the architect John Dando Sedding from 1886 until his death in 1891, and then of his assistant and successor Harry Wilson until 1898. (fn. 39)

Nos. 455–497 (odd)

Nos. 455–497 (odd), stretching all the way from North Audley Street to Park Street, and the western portion of which is known as Park House, are the result of a scheme of redevelopment by Fitzroy Robinson and Partners in 1961–9 to include shops, a students' hostel and office space. (fn. 40) The development hardly regards the genius loci and replaces a number of buildings which may be briefly mentioned.

Nos. 453–459 (odd) Oxford Street and Nos. 22 and 23 North Audley Street

Nos. 453–459 (odd) Oxford Street and Nos. 22 and 23 North Audley Street, a small but elegant set of shops with flats over, were designed by Herbert Read and Robert Falconer Macdonald and built by Holloway Brothers in 1900–2 (Plate 46b). The client was E. H. Wilton of Champion and Wilton, saddlers, of Nos. 457 and 459 Oxford Street. The building had three storeys towards North Audley Street and five on to Oxford Street. The ground floor was of Doulting stone, the upper storeys of red brick with stone dressings, and the style a picturesque and effective Arts and Crafts treatment. (fn. 41)

Nos. 461–487 (odd)

Nos. 461–487 (odd) were all rebuilt between 1883 and 1888 in red brick with stone dressings to designs by T. Chatfeild Clarke and Son. But they were treated as six separate buildings and allotted very different degrees of ornamentation. Nos. 461 and 463, built in 1886 by E. Lawrance and Sons at a cost of about £6,000, had a very decorative front which The Builder believed 'partakes largely of the style of the Brothers Adam'. Its disproportionately high and ungainly lower part, embracing an entresol, was partly redeemed by some delicate Portlandstone carving. (fn. 42) No. 465, erected in 1885 for Hammond and Company, leather-breeches-makers, appeared simpler in front, but the tender of the builders, Hall, Beddall and Company, was for £7,684. (fn. 43) Nos. 467–473, of 1885–6, made a fairly basic Queen Anne composition built for H. T. Batt and Son, veterinary surgeons, by Miller and Brown; another architect, H. M. Newlyn, was also involved here. (fn. 44) Nos. 475 and 477 were chronologically the last and the most disciplined of the Chatfeild Clarkes' designs, built by R. Cox in 1887–8 for Anthony Kitchen, ironmonger, at a cost not under £8,000. The three tiers of late-Gothic windows alternated with brick piers and were crowned by straight, richly ornamented gables. (fn. 45) Nos. 479–483 had a broader but hardly less decorated front, with piers of cut brick, dressings of Corsehill stone, and large unorthodox windows with cast-iron mullions (Plate 47b). The building was used as showrooms by Holland and Holland, coach-builders, and was fitted with a lift which could take the heaviest coaches from the basement to the second floor. The contractors were Colls and Sons and the bills for their work (done in 1883–4) came to over £17,000. (fn. 46) Next door, Colls and Sons were again builders in 1883–4 of Nos. 485–487, a more conventional pair of shops with residences above erected for Tautz and Sons, breeches-makers, and B. Peal and Company, bootmakers; Tautz's premises cost over £7,000, Peal's over £8,000. The materials were polished red granite for the ground floor and red brick above with Corsehill dressings. (fn. 47)

Nos. 489–497 (odd)

Nos. 489–497 (odd), built to designs by Thomas Cundy III in 1865–6, were the earliest part of the Grosvenor estate in Oxford Street to be undertaken as a range and the only portion of rebuilding hereabouts to be finished during the time of the second Marquess of Westminster (fig. 45: see also Plate 27b in vol. XXXIX). This was also the first instance on the Mayfair estate of tenants combining together as separate lessees under a single architect and builder, a policy which was so often to be followed over the ensuing thirty years.

In March 1863 the Marquess agreed that all this property together with most of Hereford Street further west should be rebuilt according to a plan produced by his surveyor, Thomas Cundy II. The Oxford Street site east of Park Street was the first to be dealt with, and in spring 1865 tenants from here were temporarily rehoused in property further west. The rebuilding tenants chosen were Leonard Hammond, proprietor of the Gloucester Coffee House at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Street; Thomas Hoult, baker; Alexander Bartley, bootmaker; Samuel Last, trunkmaker; and William Archibald Thomson, servants'-bazaar-keeper. Only Hammond, Hoult and Thomson seem previously to have had premises here. In exchange for eighty-five-year leases they had to agree to rich elevations by Thomas Cundy III in the Second Empire style, like those he was planning at this time for Hereford Gardens and Grosvenor Gardens. There were to be four shops besides the Gloucester Coffee House or Hotel. Cundy must have intended that the range should eventually stretch all or most of the way to North Audley Street, for at the corner with Park Street (No. 497) he accentuated the block with a full attic and high pavilion roof, but supplied no answer to this feature at No. 489. The materials for the fronts were red brick with copious Portland-stone dressings and much ornamental ironwork, and the builders for all the tenants were Mark Patrick and Son. (fn. 48)

Hereford House.

The grand houses built in Hereford Gardens between 1866 and 1874 enjoyed only a short-lived aristocratic heyday, and Trollopes' fears about their unsuitable situation soon proved justified (see page 175). The proximity of Oxford Street caused problems, and as early as 1903 the Estate Board considered, but turned down, a proposal to buy the whole of the street for a hotel. (fn. 49) But by 1916 the Board was prepared to co-operate in any scheme to buy up the existing leases and use the site for commercial purposes, its attitude now being that 'the character of the neighbourhood has changed and that the time for the retention of residential property in the position of Hereford Gardens has gone by'. (fn. 50)

By the mid 1920's the Board had decided to acquire the site and advertize it for building purposes, and between 1925 and 1927 at least £137,000 was spent in purchasing the outstanding leasehold interests. (fn. 51) By agreement with the London County Council and Westminster City Council the roadway of Hereford Gardens was closed and building lines set back, particularly in Oxford Street. (fn. 52)

Figure 45:

Nos. 489–497 (odd) Oxford Street (demolished), elevation

Although an asking price of £775,000 freehold or £38,750 per annum for a ninety-nine-year lease was set, the Estate accepted an offer by A. W. Gamage Limited, the department store in Holborn, to take a ninety-nine-year lease at an annual rent of £20,000 for four years and £30,000 for the remainder. A building agreement to this effect was signed in September 1928. (fn. 53) Gamages proposed to erect a store with flats above and for this purpose formed a new company, Gamages (West End) Limited, which was incorporated in the same month and then offered 500,000 £1 shares to the public. The company also arranged to borrow £450,000 from the Grosvenor Estate in instalments as construction progressed. Of this £300,000 was actually lent on the security of a first mortgage of the building to the Duke of Westminster's trustees. (fn. 54)

Gamages' architects were C. S. and E. M. Joseph, but the building had to be erected 'to the satisfaction of Sir Edwin Lutyens and Mr. Blow as … Estate Architects' and Lutyens, in particular, had a firm hand on the finished design. He submitted elevations and a typical upper-floor plan for the Duke's approval in 1928 (fn. 55) and several of his sketches and detailed drawings for the building survive among the collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects. When the building was completed in 1930 Messrs. Joseph were described as the architects with Lutyens as consultant. The builders were Higgs and Hill. (fn. 56)

The result of their collaboration is a huge building of red brick and Portland stone (Plate 47c). The influence of Lutyens is evident in the general arrangement of the mass of the building, particularly at the upper levels, and in the large-scale classical features, designed to be seen from below. These features give character to the building, and what the architectural correspondent of The Times called, in another context, the skilful manner of his 'stone binding of the brick mass' is very apparent. (fn. 57) But the overall design, which was no doubt the product of a compromise between the reticent neo-Georgian then in vogue on the Grosvenor estate, the need to give dignity to what was in part a block of luxury flats, and the demands of a superstore, passed over the new possibilities then being opened up in the field of commercial architecture and relied instead on a scaled-up version of Georgian domestic architecture with superimposed classical motifs.

Whatever its merits and defects, the building proved disastrous for its owners. The flats, which were situated at the eastern and western ends of the building above second-floor level and included as many as three bedrooms, two reception rooms and quarters for servants, were successful, (fn. 58) but the store, which opened in September 1930, lost money steadily and closed after only eight months. The building had cost over one million pounds to erect and fit out, and Gamages (West End) Limited was, in consequence, severely under-capitalized. With its creditors pressing, the company appointed a Receiver in April 1931 and went into liquidation. (fn. 59) Undoubtedly a major factor had been the depressed condition of trade and business generally, and when the premises were put up for auction the reserve price was not reached. The building then came into the possession of the estate trustees as first mortgagees. (fn. 60)

In 1932–3 a consortium of six insurance companies formed a new company, Hereford House Limited, which purchased a two-hundred-year lease from the Estate for £350,000 at an annual rent of £20,000. The aim was to utilize the store part as a permanent exhibition and trade centre for displaying the products of British industry, and the building re-opened as British Industries House. (fn. 61) The scheme received a good deal of favourable publicity in its early years but interest waned and in 1938 the building changed hands again. The non-residential section was taken by C & A Modes Limited and reverted to its original function as a store. Among alterations undertaken by C & A's architects, Robin, North and Wilsdon (later North and Partners), was the rebuilding of the first three storeys of the central part of the Oxford Street front in stone. The present shop fronts and C & A monogram date from 1965. (fn. 62)

Nos. 527–539 (odd)

Nos. 527–539 (odd) see page 289.


  • 1. GBM 14/355.
  • 2. GBM 15/21–2.
  • 3. Ibid., 14/412–13; 15/21–2; 16/377–8.
  • 4. The Illustrated London News, 13 April 1844, p. 232.
  • 5. GBM 18/17–18, 101–2, 131, 312, 479; 19/108–9.
  • 6. Ibid., 24/301–2: T. C. Barker and Michael Robbins, A History of London Transport, vol. II, 1974, pp. 38–44.
  • 7. GBM 24/527.
  • 8. 54 and 55 Vict. c. 196, local and personal, sections 39, 40, 81, 96.
  • 9. GBM 26/327 8, 491; 27/87–8, 165–6.
  • 10. Ibid., 27/461, 520; 28/57–8.
  • 11. Ibid., 28/58; 31/144; 33/309, 312, 371: L.C.C. Minutes, 1 May 1906, p. 1121.
  • 12. GBM 28/57.
  • 13. Information kindly supplied by Mr. Charles Hutton and Mr. Michael Robbins and the London Transport Architect's Department: D.N.B., 1951–60, sub Charles Holden.
  • 14. GBM 23/183–4, 325, 328–9, 355: B. 20 Jan. 1887, p. 170; 27 Oct. 1888, p. 304.
  • 15. B.A. 36692.
  • 16. GBM 20/53–4, 255–6: B. 26 June. 1880, p. 811: The Architect, 25 Dec. 1880, p. 405.
  • 17. GBM 14/202, 314, 412–13; 15/21–2, 29, 33, 57; 16/190, 217, 359, 377–8; 17/41, 84, 279–80, 321: The Architect, 11 Nov. 1871, p. 244.
  • 18. GBM 17/481–2, 496–7, 502; 18/116, 150: D.S.R. 1873/50.
  • 19. GBM 16/179, 285, 329, 366, 406, 416, 439–40, 484–5, 494, 529; 17/8, 66: The Architect, 11 Nov. 1871, p. 244.
  • 20. B.A. 51272: The Architects' Journal, 15 Dec. 1926, p. 745.
  • 21. B.A. 18833; 56030.
  • 22. C. K. Lyson, 'Some Aspects of the Historical Development and Present Organisation of Voluntary Welfare Societies for Adult Deaf Persons in England, 1840–1963', 1965, unpublished Liverpool University M.A. thesis.
  • 23. GBM 16/292: Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, Annual Reports, 1863–70.
  • 24. GBM 16/83, 108, 292, 304–5, 390.
  • 25. Ibid., 16/304, 391: Annual Reports, 1869–70.
  • 26. The Times, 27 June 1870, p. 8b; 6 July 1870, p. 5b.
  • 27. Annual Reports, 1871–2: The Passing of St. Saviour's Oxford Street, London (1873–1922), pp. 4, 6: The Architect, 24 Sept. 1870, p. 174: B. 16 Sept. 1871, p. 724: B.N. 18 Dec. 1874, pp. 722, 795.
  • 28. The Passing of St. Saviour's, ut supra, p. 4: D.S.R. 1876/179.
  • 29. GBM 19/166.
  • 30. The Passing of St. Saviour's, ut supra, pp. 5–8.
  • 31. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1919–22, pp. 152–6, 169.
  • 32. B.A. 23776: B.R. 1454.
  • 33. GBM 21/120, 122, 481; 22/130: The Architect, 18 Sept. 1885, p. 177.
  • 34. GBM 18/224 5, 290–3, 364, 455, 467.
  • 35. Ibid., 18/289, 298, 373; 19/29; 20/498; 21/241; 22/259; 23/166; 24/239: D.S.R. 1889/190.
  • 36. GBM 31/269–70; 33/533–6; 35/243–6.
  • 37. Ibid., 18/477–8; 19/13–14, 110, 114, 276, 316.
  • 38. R.I.B.A., nomination papers for FRIBA, 1877, J. T. Wimperis.
  • 39. P.O.D.
  • 40. B.A. 103460: B.R. 125958.
  • 41. GBM 28/189, 395–6: Sydney Perks, Residential Flats, 1905, pp. 131–2: W. Shaw Sparrow, Flats, Urban Houses and Cottage Homes, 1906, p. 56.
  • 42. GBM 23/87 9: B. 22 May 1886, p. 767; 10 Dec. 1887, p. 804.
  • 43. GBM 21/469; 22/51–2: B. 28 March 1885, p. 470.
  • 44. GBM 22/321–3: D.S.R. 1885/109: B. 18 July 1885, p. 110.
  • 45. GBM 23/117–18: D.S.R. 1887/115: B. 14 May 1887, p. 737.
  • 46. GBM 21/161, 163: G.L.R.O.(L), Colls' sales ledger, 1880–5: B. 15 Nov. 1884, p. 673.
  • 47. GBM 21/235–6, 325: G.L.R.O.(L), Colls' sales ledger, 1880–5: B. 15 Nov. 1884, p. 673.
  • 48. GBM 14/8, 355, 389–91, 400, 403–6, 422, 424; 15/17, 19–20, 59–60, 79, 171–2, 253, 276, 290, 340: G.O., Cundy box, papers of 1863–4.
  • 49. GBM 31/3; 32/151.
  • 50. Ibid., 41/446; 42/116.
  • 51. G.O., Trustees' accounts, 1921–7.
  • 52. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, pt. 1, p. 277; 1926–8, pt. 2, pp. 297, 322, 403: B.A. 55478.
  • 53. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, pt. 2, pp. 338–9, 503, 527, 530; misc. box 22, Hereford Gardens site, building agreement and papers.
  • 54. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, pt. 2, p. 530; Trustees' accounts, 1928–33: The Times, 8 May 1931.
  • 55. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, pt. 2, p. 527.
  • 56. The Architect and Building News, 14 Sept., 2 Nov. 1928, pp. 345, 576; 19 Sept., 21 Nov. 1930, pp. 399–401, 683–6: The Architectural Review, vol. LXIX, April 1931, pp. 122–4.
  • 57. The Times, 6 Aug. 1930.
  • 58. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1931–2, pp. 336, 347: The Architect and Building News, 21 Nov. 1930, p. 684.
  • 59. The Times, 8 May 1931.
  • 60. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1931–2, pp. 163, 282, 320, 336.
  • 61. Ibid., 1933–4, pp. 30, 98, 102, 134; Trustees' accounts, 1928–33, 29 April 1933: The Times, 11, 12 May, 8 Sept. 1933, 31 Dec. 1934.
  • 62. B.A. 55478.
  • c1. According to the Building News in 1883, the architect was F. Boreham and the builder William Macey.