Brick Lane

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 


Brick Lane street sign in English and Bengali.

Brick Lane (Bengali: ব্রিক লেন) is a street in east London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It runs from Swanfield Street in the northern part of Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. Today, it is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown. It is famous for its many curry houses.

1 Early history
1.1 15th to 18th centuries
1.2 19th century markets and their modern use
1.3 Religious groups
1.4 Bengali settlement
1.5 Regeneration
2 Land ownership and naming
3 Buildings of interest
4 Transport
5 In popular culture
6 See also
7 References
8 External links

Early History


The Brick Lane Mosque, used first as a church and then a synagogue, reflecting changing demographics.

15th to 18th centuries

Winding through fields, the street was formerly called Whitechapel Lane. It derives its current name from brick and tile manufacture started in the 15th century, which used the local brick earth deposits. and featured in the 16th century Woodcut map of London as a partially-developed crossroad leading north from the city’s most easterly edge. By the 17th century, the street was being developed northwards from the Barres (now Whitechapel High Street) as a result of expanding population.

Brewing came to Brick Lane before 1680, with water drawn from deep wells. One brewer was Joseph Truman, first recorded in 1683. His family, particularly Benjamin Truman, went on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane. The Brick Lane Market first developed in the 17th century for fruit and vegetables sold outside the City.

Successive waves of immigrants settled in the area: in the 17th century, French Huguenots expanded into the area for housing; the master weavers were based in Spitalfields. Starting with the Huguenots, the area became a centre for weaving, tailoring and the developing clothing industry. It continued to attract immigrants, who provided semi- and unskilled labour.

19th century markets and their modern use

In the 19th century, Irish people and Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to the area. Jewish immigration continued into the early 20th century.

The Sunday market, like the ones on Petticoat Lane and nearby Columbia Road, dates from a dispensation given by the government to the Jewish community in the 19th century. At the time, there were no Sunday markets open because of the Christian observance of Sabbath. Located at the junction of Cheshire and Sclater streets, the market sells bric-a-brac as well as fruit, vegetables and many other items. In 2015 it was identified by police as the focal point of a trade in stolen bicycles and bicycle parts, many taken from City of London employees who had used “cycle to work” schemes. Alongside seven arrests, the police also warned purchasers that buying bicycles or parts in deals “too good to be true” could make them guilty of handling stolen goods. Near the junction with Hanbury Street are two indoor markets; Upmarket and Backyard Market. In 2010, the Brick Lane Farmers’ Market opened, intended to be held every Sunday in nearby Bacon Street; it has now closed.

In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis comprised the major group of immigrants and gradually predominated in the area. Many Bangladeshi immigrants to Brick Lane were from the Greater Sylhet region. These settlers helped shape Bangladeshi migration to Britain; many families from Jagannathpur and Bishwanath tend to live in the Brick Lane area.

Religious Groups

In 1742, La Neuve Eglise, a Huguenot chapel, was built on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. By 1809, it was used by missionaries as The Jews’ Chapel, where they promoted Christianity to the expanding Jewish population. It was adapted as a Methodist Chapel in 1819 for Protestant residents. (John Wesley had preached his first “covenant sermon” at the nearby Black Eagle Street Chapel).

Reflecting the changing demographics of the area, in 1898, the building was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath, or Spitalfields Great Synagogue. After decades of change in the area, with Jews moving out and Bangladeshis moving in, in 1976 it was adapted again as the London Jamme Masjid (Great London Mosque) to serve the expanding Bangladeshi community. The building is Grade II* listed.

Bengali Settlement


An elderly Bangladeshi man in Brick Lane


Curry restaurants in Brick Lane

In the 20th century the Brick Lane area was important in the second wave of development of Anglo-Indian cuisine, as families from countries such as Bangladesh (mainly the Greater Sylhet region) migrated to London to look for work. Some curry houses of Brick Lane do not sell alcohol as most are owned by Muslims.

Bengalis in the United Kingdom settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London, many Bengali people settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrants working in the docks and shipping from Chittagong port in Bengal (British Empire in India was founded and based in Bengal). Their regular stopover paved the way for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later. Humble beginnings such as this gave birth to Brick Lane as the famous curry capital of the UK. Bengalis of Sylheti origin constitute only 10% of all South Asians in Britain; however around 90% of all South Asian restaurants in the UK are Sylheti- or Bengali-owned.



Graffiti on Brick Lane

More recently the area has also broadened to being a vibrant art and fashion student area, with considerable exhibition space. Each year most of the fine art and fashion courses exhibit their work near Brick Lane.

Since the late 1990s, Brick Lane has been the site of several of the city’s best known night clubs, notably 93 Feet East and The Vibe Bar, both built on the site of The Old Truman Brewery, once the industrial centre of the area, and now an office and entertainment complex.

Brick Lane has a regular display of graffiti, which features artists such as Banksy, Stik, ROA, D*Face, Ben Eine and Omar Hassan. The lane has been used in many music videos such as “Glory Days” by Just Jack, “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers and “Überlin” by R.E.M..

Land Ownership and Naming

Large swathes of Brick Lane and its surrounding areas were once owned by the Osborne (later Osborn after 1720) family, Baronets, of Chicksands in the County of Bedford. The family’s holdings survived until at least the 1970s. The family’s history continues to be reflected by the naming of streets in the area around Brick Lane, including:

  • Chicksand Street reflects the village of Chicksands in Bedfordshire, location of the family seat Chicksands Priory;
  • The west end of what is now Chicksand Street was once Osborn Place (see 1787 map);
  • Modern Osborn Street was a renaming of the southern-most stretch of Brick Lane (see Rocque map of 1746 for this naming, altered by the time of the 1787 map);
  • Heneage Street reflects the marriage of George Osborn, 4th Baronet, to Lady Heneage Finch (his 2nd wife) in April 1772;
  • The modern Hopetown Street was originally Finch Street, reflecting the same marriage (see 1853 map, right);The modern Old Montague Street was originally just Montague Street, preserving the maternal family name of George Osborn, 4th Baronet, whose mother, Mary Montague, was the daughter of George Montague, 2nd Earl of Halifax. The continuation of Chicksand Street to the East (now demolished) was once Halifax Street, referencing the same marriage.
  • Modern Hanbury Street is made up of 4 streets shown on the 1853 map: Browns Lane, Montague Street (triggering the addition of ‘Old’ to the earlier street of the same name), Well Street and Church Street.


John Rocque’s Map of London, 1746


Map, publisher unknown, dated 1787, showing Spitalfields (Spittlefields) and its environs


An extract from Cross’s New Plan Of London, showing Stepney and surrounding areas. Published 1853 by J.Cross of London.

Buildings of Interest

Nearby buildings of interest include Christ Church, Spitalfields, The Jamme Masjid or Great London Mosque on the corner of Fournier Street (the building represents a history of successive communities of immigrants in East End) and The Rag Factory on Heneage Street (once home to Turner Prize nominees Tracey Emin and Gary Hume, now a thriving arts space).


The nearest London Underground stations are Aldgate East and Liverpool Street. In 2006 a campaign was launched to change the name of the Aldgate East station to “Brick Lane”, but received no official support.

The nearest London Overground station is Shoreditch High Street station. This line runs on part of the former East London Line which has now been converted to London Overground. At the junction with Pedley Street exists the former Shoreditch tube station which closed in 2006 due to underuse. Remnants of the station can be seen from trains entering and leaving Liverpool Street station.

In Popular Culture


Brick Lane in 2005

The street is the location for Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane, published in 2003, and the film of 2007 starring Tannishtha Chatterjee. The novel provoked a controversy with some of the local South Asian community because of a perceived negative portrayal of them. Parts of the Bengali community were particularly opposed to plans by Ruby Films to film parts of the novel in the Brick Lane area and formed the “Campaign Against Monica Ali’s Film Brick Lane.” Consequently, the producers of the film used different locations for certain scenes, such as that depicting Brick Lane Market. Despite this, the director of the film, Sarah Gavron, attests on the DVD commentary of the film that genuine footage of Brick Lane does appear in the finished movie. Activists told The Guardian they intended to burn copies of Ali’s book during a rally to be held on 30 July 2006, but the demonstration passed without incident.

Other notable books on the area are Salaam Brick Lane by Tarquin Hall, On Brick Lane (2007) by Rachel Lichtenstein and An Acre of Barren Ground by Jeremy Gavron. A large collection of photographs of the characters and sales people who worked the markets in Brick Lane were taken by Fran May between 1976 and 1978, encouraged by Bill Brandt while Fran was a student of photography at the Royal College of Art.

The street has been used for several filming locations for the BBC television show Luther (2013) in its third season.

Chinatown, London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1280px-Chinatown,_London (1)

Gerrard Street (2011)

  • Metropolitan borough: City of Westminster
  • Metropolitan county: Greater London
  • Region: London
  • Country: England
  • Sovereign state: United Kingdom
  • Post town: LONDON
  • Postcode district: W1D
  • Dialling code: 020
  • Police: Metropolitan
  • Fire: London
  • Ambulance: London
  • EU: Parliament London
  • UK Parliament: Cities of London and Westminster
  • List of places:
    • UK
    • England
    • London

The name Chinatown has been used at different times to describe different places in London. The present Chinatown is part of the City of Westminster, occupying the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses.

1 History
2 Residents
3 Gerrard Street
4 Street name etymologies
5 Education
6 Transport
7 Popular Culture
8 Gallery


The first area in London known as Chinatown was located in the Limehouse area of the East End of London. At the start of the 20th century, the Chinese population of London was concentrated in that area, setting up businesses which catered to the Chinese sailors who frequented in Docklands. The area began to become known through exaggerated reports and tales of (the then-legal) opium dens and slum housing, rather than the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets in the current Chinatown. However, much of the area was damaged by aerial bombing during the Blitz in World War II, although a number of elderly Chinese still choose to live in this area. After World War II, however, the growing popularity of Chinese cuisine and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong led to an increasing number of Chinese restaurants being opened elsewhere.

The present Chinatown, which is off Shaftesbury Avenue did not start to be established until the 1970s. Up until then, it was a regular Soho area, run-down, with Gerrard Street the main thoroughfare. It was dominated by the Post Office, facing Macclesfield Street, and other major establishments were The Tailor & Cutter House, at 43/44, now a Chinese supermarket and restaurant, the Boulougne Restaurant, near the Wardour Street end, and by Peter Mario’s Restaurant at the other end. Other businesses included a master baker’s, the Sari Centre, Lesgrain French Coffee House, Harrison Marks’ Glamour Studio, an Indian restaurant and various brothels. Probably the first Chinese restaurants opened in Lisle Street, parallel to Gerrard St, and then spread gradually. The Tailor & Cutter did not close down until around 1974.

The area boasts over 80 restaurants showcasing some of London’s finest and most authentic Asian cuisine.

In 2005, the property developer Rosewheel proposed a plan to redevelop the eastern part of Chinatown. The plan was opposed by many of the existing retailers in Chinatown, as they believe that the redevelopment will drive out the traditional Chinese retail stores from the area and change the ethnic characteristic of Chinatown.

The London Chinatown Community Centre (LCCC) has been housed in the Chinatown area since it was founded in 1980 by Dr Abraham Lue. The Centre claims to have received 40,000 people for help and assistance since its foundation. Located since 1998 on the 2nd floor of 28-29 Gerrard Street, the Centre relocated to 2 Leicester Court in 2012, above the Hippodrome Casino.


Vale Royal House, a large residential block, houses a number of families, professionals and single men and women. The block was built in the 1980s and houses the China Town car park underneath it.

Gerrard Street

John Dryden (1631–1700) lived for a while at 43 Gerrard Street, which is commemorated by a blue plaque. Another plaque, on number 9, marks the meeting of Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds at the Turk’s Head Tavern to found The Club, a dining club, in 1764. In fiction, Charles Dickens sets the home of Mr Jaggers, the lawyer in Great Expectations, in “a house on the south side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows [and with …] a stone hall… a dark brown staircase … dark brown rooms… panelled walls”. A Royal Society of Arts blue plaque commemorates Edmund Burke at 37 Gerrard Street.

In the Roaring Twenties, the 43 Club was set up at number 43, as a jazz club notorious for outrageous parties frequented by the rich and powerful. It was eventually closed down by direct order of the Home Office and the proprietor, Kate Meyrick, was imprisoned. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club started in Gerrard Street in the basement of No. 39.

In 1953, No. 4 Gerrard Street was a small studio where the theatrical photographer George Harrison Marks and his partner Pamela Green, lived and worked. By the late 1950s, with the success of Kamera Publications, they had taken over No. 5 next door and had a much larger studio on the top floor. In the early 1960s the ground floor at No. 4 became a gallery. The director Michael Powell copied their sets for the classic film Peeping Tom, in which Green also starred.

A basement in Gerrard Street was the location of the first rehearsal of Led Zeppelin in August 1968, where they played “Train Kept A-Rollin'”. The exact location of the basement is unknown, and it is believed to have been converted into business premises many years ago.

Street Name Etymologies

The following utilises the generally accepted boundaries of Chinatown viz. Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, Charing Cross Road to the east, Coventry Street, Leicester Square and Cranbourn Street to the south and Great Windmill Street to the west.

  • Charing Cross Road – built 1887, and named as it led to the cross at Charing, from the the Old English word “cierring”, referring to a bend in the River Thames
  • Coventry Street – after Henry Coventry]], Secretary of State to Charles II, who lived near hre in Shaver’s Hall
  • Cranbourn Street – built in the 1670s and named after local landowner the Earl of Salisbury, Viscount Cranbourn (or Cranbourne) after the town in Dorset
  • Dansey Place – unknown
  • Gerrard Place and Gerrard Street – after Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, who owned this land when the street as built in the 1680s; the form ‘Gerrard’ developed in the 19th century
  • Great Windmill Street – after a windmill that formerly stood near here in Ham Yard n the 17th century; the ‘great’ prefix was to distinguish it from Little Windmill Street, now Lexington Street
  • Horse and Dolphin Yard – after the Horse and Dolphin inn which stood here in the 17th – 19th centuries
  • Leicester Court, Leicester Place, Leicester Square and Leicester Street – the square was home to Leicester House in the 17th century, home of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester; Leicester Court was formerly Ryder Court, after local leaseholder Richard Ryder – it was renamed in 1936
  • Lisle Street – after Philip, Viscount Lisle, who succeeded to the earldom of Leicester in 1677
  • Macclesfield Street – after Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, local landowner in the 17th century
  • Newport Court, Newport Place and Little Newport Street – after Mountjoy Blount, Earl of Newport (Isle of Wight), who owned house on what this street (then just Newport Street) in the 17th century. Following the construction of Charing Cross Road Newport Street was split in two and the two sections renamed as they are today.
  • Rupert Court and Rupert Street – after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, noted 17th century general and son of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I
  • Shaftesbury Avenue – after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Victorian politician and philanthropist
  • Wardour Street – named after local 17th century landowners the Wardour family, and formerly called Colman Hedge Lane after a nearby field; the section south of Brewer Street was formerly Prince Street prior to 1878, in parallel with Rupert Street 


For education in Chinatown, London, see City of Westminster § Education.
The City of Westminster operates the Charing Cross Library with the Westminster Chinese Library.


The nearest London Underground stations are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Popular Culture
The films Soursweet (1988) and Ping Pong (1987) are set in Chinatown; they are regarded as the first British-Chinese films, and make extensive use of Chinatown locations.



Chinatown, New Year 2009


The corner of Gerrard Street, 2013


Bilingual street sign


A stone lion on Gerrard Street. Note the bilingual English/Chinese street sign in the background.


Chinatown pagoda, London (removed in 2017)

Downing Street

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Downing Street in the late 1980s, before the gates were installed

Downing Street is a street in London, United Kingdom, known for housing the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. “Downing Street” is used as a metonym for the Government of the United Kingdom.

Downing Street is off Whitehall in central London, a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament and a little further from Buckingham Palace. The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing. The houses on the south side of the street were demolished in the 19th century to make way for government offices now occupied by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

For more than three hundred years it has held the official residences of the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister’s official residence is 10 Downing Street; the Chancellor’s official residence is next door at Number 11. The government’s Chief Whip has an official residence at Number 12, although the current Chief Whip’s residence is at Number 9.

1 History
2 Houses in Downing Street
3 Downing Street gates
3.1 Public right of way
4 Security



Sir George Downing

The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, on the site of a mansion, Hampden House. What was on the site before the mansion is vague, but there is evidence towards a brewhouse called The Axe, owned by the Abbey of Abingdon. Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, and who invested in properties and acquired considerable wealth. In 1654, he purchased the lease on land east of Saint James’s Park, adjacent to the House at the Back, and within walking distance of parliament. Downing planned to build a row of townhouses “for persons of good quality to inhabit”. However, the Hampden family had a lease which prevented their construction for 30 years. When the Hampden lease expired, Downing received permission to build further west to take advantage of recent developments. The new warrant issued in 1682 reads: “Sir George Downing … [is authorised] to build new and more houses further westward on the grounds granted him by the patent of 1663/4 Feb. 23. The present grant is by reason that the said Cockpit or the greater part thereof is since demolished; but it is to be subject to the proviso that it be not built any nearer than 14 feet of the wall of the said Park at the West end thereof.”

Between 1682 and 1684, Downing built the cul-de-sac of two-storey townhouses with coach-houses, stables and views of St James’s Park. How many he built is not clear; most historians say 15, others say 20. The addresses changed several times; Number 10 was numbered 5 for a while, and was renumbered in 1787. Downing employed Sir Christopher Wren to design the houses. Although large, they were put up quickly and cheaply on soft soil with shallow foundations. The fronts had facades with lines painted on the surface imitating brick mortar. Winston Churchill wrote that Number 10 was “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear”.

The upper end of the Downing Street cul-de-sac closed access to St James’s Park, making the street quiet and private. An advertisement in 1720 described it as “a pretty open Place, especially at the upper end, where are four or five very large and well-built Houses, fit for Persons of Honour and Quality; each House having a pleasant Prospect into St James’s Park, with a Tarras Walk”. The houses had several distinguished residents. The Countess of Yarmouth lived at Number 10 between 1688 and 1689, Lord Lansdowne from 1692 to 1696 and the Earl of Grantham from 1699 to 1703. The diarist James Boswell took rooms in Downing Street during his stay in London during 1762–63 at a rent of £22 per annum. He records having dealings with prostitutes in the adjacent park.

Downing probably never lived in his townhouses. In 1675 he retired to Cambridge, where he died a few months after the houses were completed. His portrait hangs in the entrance foyer of the modern Number 10.

The Downing family also built Downing College, Cambridge, which was established in 1800, after its founder Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet, left a portion of his estate to establish Downing College when the land became available. (A door from Number 10 is in use in the college).

The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall were acquired by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office, Board of Trade and Treasury offices. In 1861 the houses on the south side of Downing Street were replaced by purpose-built government offices for the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial Office, and the Home Office.

Houses in Downing Street


Downing Street looking west. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is on the left, the red house is No. 12, the dark houses are No. 11 and No. 10 (nearer, and partially obscured), and the building on the right is the Barry wing of Cabinet Office, which has its main frontage to Whitehall.


The corner of Downing St and Whitehall

9 Downing Street,

named in 2001, is the Downing Street entrance to the Privy Council Office and houses the Department for Exiting the European Union. It was formerly part of Number 10.

10 Downing Street

is the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as with almost no exceptions, the two roles have been filled by the same person since the 1720s. It has fulfilled this role since 1735.

11 Downing Street

has been the official residence of the Second Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1828.

12 Downing Street,

formerly the Chief Whip’s Office, houses the Prime Minister’s Press Office, Strategic Communications Unit and Information and Research Unit. In the 1820s it was occupied by the Judge Advocate-General, although it remained in private ownership. It entered government hands when purchased by the East India Company in 1863, and was occupied by the marine and railway departments of the Board of Trade. It was originally numbered 13, but was partially re-built and re-numbered following the demolition of Number 14 in 1876. It was badly damaged by fire in 1879, and underwent further changes.

14 Downing Street

formerly closed off the western end of the street. It was acquired by the Crown in 1798, and was used by the War Office and Colonial Office in the 19th century. Some parts were demolished in the 1860s, and by 1876 it had been removed completely.

15–16 Downing Street,

long since demolished, formerly housed the Foreign Office, which also occupied two houses on the south side of the street.

18 Downing Street

was occupied by the West India Department of the Colonial Office.

20 Downing Street

was occupied by the Tithe Commission.

The houses at the end of the street were arranged around Downing Square.

There used to be a public house, the Rose and Crown, in Downing Street. In 1830 the tenant was a Mr Dixon.

Throughout the history of these houses, ministers have lived by agreement in whatever rooms they thought necessary. On some occasions Number 11 has been occupied not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but by the individual considered to be the nominal deputy Prime Minister (whether or not they actually took the title); this was particularly common in coalition governments. Sometimes a minister only uses the Downing Street flat for formal occasions and lives elsewhere.

During his last period in office, in 1881, William Ewart Gladstone claimed residence in numbers 10, 11 and 12 for himself and his family. He was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister at the time.

After the 1997 general election, in which Labour took power, a swap was carried out by the incumbents of the two titles, Tony Blair being a married man with three children living at home, while his counterpart, Gordon Brown, was unmarried at the time of taking up his post. Although Number 10 was the Prime Minister’s official residence and contained the prime ministerial offices, Blair and his family actually moved into the more spacious Number 11, while Brown lived in the more meagre apartments of Number 10. This was the second time this had occurred; Stafford Northcote lived in Number 10 at one point, while Benjamin Disraeli occupied Number 11. That was for precisely the opposite reason—at the time, Number 10 was the more spacious apartment and Sir Stafford had a larger family. Blair and Brown’s arrangement continued between Brown (at 11) and Alistair Darling (at 10), and continued in the Cameron ministry (David Cameron at 11 and George Osborne at 10) Theresa May and Philip Hammond have also continued this arrangement.

Downing Street Gates


The gates at the entrance to Downing Street


Police at the gate

Barriers were erected at the St James’s Park end of the street for the unveiling of the Cenotaph on 11 November 1920. They were a public safety measure intended to prevent the crowds in Whitehall becoming too dense.

When the movement for Irish independence became increasingly violent, it was decided to retain the barriers, which were raised and strengthened. On 26 November 1920 construction commenced on a wooden barricade, 8 feet (2.4 m) high at the end of the street. They were described as being of a “substantial character” mounted on proper foundations and incorporated vehicle gates. The barriers were taken down in 1922 when the Irish Free State was created.

Vehicle access was curtailed in 1973 when metal barriers were placed across the entrance to the street. In 1974, the Metropolitan Police proposed erecting a semi-permanent barrier between the pavement and carriageway on the Foreign Office side to keep pedestrians off the main part of the street. The proposal came with assurances that tourists would still be permitted to take photographs at the door of Number 10. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, rejected the proposal, feeling that it would appear to be an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of the public. Wilson’s private secretary wrote “I much regret this further erosion of the Englishman’s right to wander at will in Downing Street.”

In 1982 access was further restricted by railings and a demountable gate. They were replaced by black steel gates in 1989. The increase in security was due to an increase in violence, particularly by the IRA during The Troubles. The Thatcher ministry was particularly moved to increase security after the 1979 assassination of Lord Mountbatten.

Downing_street (1)

Downing Street in the late 1980s, before the gates were installed

Public Right of Way

The public right of way along Downing Street has not been extinguished nor subject to a gating order and the road retains the status of a public highway maintained by Westminster City Council. Public access was curtailed by relying on common law powers to prevent breach of the peace (although its legality has been questioned by a correspondent for New Statesman magazine). In 2005 Westminster City Council used anti-terrorism powers contained in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to formalise the restrictions by means of a traffic management order.

Although the Downing Street government buildings and grounds are a designated site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 for criminal trespass, the street was not included in the boundaries of the designated area.


Since 1989, entering Downing Street has required passing through a security checkpoint. The street is patrolled by armed police from the Diplomatic Protection Group, and there is usually at least one police officer outside the front door of Number 10. Security was tightened after 10 Downing Street was mortar bombed by the IRA in 1991.

Oxford Street

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oxford  Street | A40


View east along Oxford Street in May 2016


Location within Central London

  • Former name(s):
    • Via Trinobantina
    • Tyburn Road
  • Maintained by: Transport for London
  • Length: 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Postal code: W1
  • Nearest Tube station
    • Marble Arch
    • Bond Street
    • Oxford Circus
    • Tottenham Court Road
  • Coordinates: 51.515312°N 0.142025°WCoordinates: 51.515312°N 0.142025°W
  • West end: Marble Arch
  • East end: Tottenham Court Road / Charing Cross Road


  • Known for
    • 100 Club
    • Debenhams
    • HMV
    • House of Fraser
    • John Lewis
    • Marble Arch
    • Oxford Circus
    • Selfridges
  • Website oxfordstreet co uk

Oxford Street is a major road in the City of Westminster in the West End of London, running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road via Oxford Circus. It is Europe’s busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors, and as of 2012 had approximately 300 shops. It is designated as part of the A40, a major road between London and Fishguard, though it is not signed as such, and traffic is regularly restricted to buses and taxis.

The road was originally a Roman road, part of the Via Trinobantina between Essex and Hampshire via London. It was known as Tyburn Road through the Middle Ages and was once notorious as a street where prisoners from Newgate Prison would be transported towards a public hanging. It became known as Oxford Road and then Oxford Street in the 18th century, and began to change character from a residential street to commercial and retail purposes by the late 19th century, also attracting street traders, confidence tricksters and prostitution. The first department stores in Britain opened on Oxford Street in the early 20th century, including Selfridges, John Lewis and HMV. Unlike nearby shopping streets such as Bond Street, it has retained an element of downmarket street trading alongside more prestigious retail stores. The street suffered heavy bombing during World War II, and several longstanding stores including John Lewis were completely destroyed and rebuilt from scratch.

Despite competition from other shopping centres such as Westfield Stratford City and the Brent Cross shopping centre, Oxford Street remains in high demand as a retail location, with several chains hosting their flagship stores on the street, and has a number of listed buildings. The annual switching on of Christmas lights by a celebrity has been a popular event since 1959. However, the combination of a very popular retail area and a main thoroughfare for London buses and taxis has caused significant problems with traffic congestion, safety and pollution. Various traffic management schemes have been proposed by Transport for London, including a ban on private vehicles during daytime hours on weekdays and Saturdays, and improved pedestrian crossings.


1 Location
2 History
2.1 Early History
2.2 Retail Development
2.3 Post-War
3 Buildings
4 Transport Links
5 Traffic
5.1 Pedestrianisation
6 Pollution
7 Crime
8 Christmas Lights
9 Listed Buildings
10 Cultural References

1 | Location

Oxford Street runs for approximately 1.2 miles (1.9 km). From Marble Arch, where it meets Park Lane, Edgware Road, and its westward continuation Bayswater Road, it runs east past Vere Street, New Bond Street and Bond Street station, up to Oxford Circus, where it meets Regent Street.

Beyond Oxford Circus, it meets Great Portland Street, Wardour Street and Rathbone Place and ends at St Giles Circus, the junction with Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road, next to Tottenham Court Road station. The eastward continuation is New Oxford Street, and then Holborn. The road is entirely within the City of Westminster.

The street is classified as part of the A40, most of which is a trunk road running from London to Fishguard (via Oxford, Cheltenham, Brecon and Haverfordwest), although like many roads in Central London that are no longer through routes, it is not signposted with the road number. It is within the London Congestion Charging Zone. Numerous bus routes run along Oxford Street, including 10, 25, 55, 73, 98, 390 and Night Buses N8, N55, N73, N98 and N207.

2 | History

2.1 | Early History


Nos. 399–405 Oxford Street, c. 1882. These buildings have now been demolished.

Oxford Street follows the route of a Roman road, the Via Trinobantina, which linked Calleva Atrebatum (near Silchester, Hampshire) with Camulodunum (now Colchester) via London and became one of the major routes in and out of the city.

Between the 12th century and 1782, it was variously known as Tyburn Road (after the River Tyburn that ran just to the south of it, and now flows underneath it), Uxbridge Road (this name is still used for the portion of the London-Oxford road between Shepherds Bush and Uxbridge), Worcester Road and Oxford Road. On Ralph Aggas’ “Plan of London”, published in the 16th century, the road is described partly as “The Waye to Uxbridge” followed by “Oxford Road”, showing rural farmland where the junction of Oxford Street and Rathbone Place now is.

Despite being a major coaching route, there were several obstacles along it, including the bridge over the Tyburn. A turnpike trust was established in the 1730s to improve upkeep of the road. It became notorious as the route taken by prisoners on their final journey from Newgate Prison to the gallows at Tyburn near Marble Arch. Spectators drunkenly jeered at prisoners as they carted along the road, and could buy rope used in the executions from the hangman in taverns. By about 1729, the road had become known as Oxford Street.

The street began to be redeveloped in the 18th century after many of the surrounding fields were purchased by the Earl of Oxford. In 1739, local gardener Thomas Huddle began to build property on the north side. John Rocque’s Map of London, published in 1746, shows urban buildings as far as North Audley Street, but only intermittent rural property thereafter. Buildings began to be erected on the corner of Oxford Street and Davies Street in the 1750s. Further development along the street occurred between 1763 and 1793. The Pantheon, a place for public entertainment, opened at No. 173 in 1772.

The street became popular with entertainers including bear-baiters, theatres and public houses. However, it was not attractive to the middle and upper classes due to the nearby Tyburn gallows and St Giles, then a notorious rookery, or slum. The gallows were removed in 1783, and by the end of the century, Oxford Street was built up from St Giles Circus to Park Lane, containing a mix of residential houses and entertainment. The Princess’s Theatre opened in 1840, and is now the site of Oxford Walk shopping area.

Oxford Circus was designed as part of the development of Regent Street by the architect John Nash in 1810. The four quadrants of the circus were designed by Sir Henry Tanner and constructed between 1913 and 1928.

2.2 | Retail Development

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View west down Oxford Street in 1961, outside Bond Street tube station

Oxford Street changed character from residential to retail towards the end of the 19th century. Drapers, cobblers and furniture stores began to appear on the street, and were later expanded into the first department stores. Street vendors began to sell tourist souvenirs on the street during this time. A plan of Oxford Street in Tallis’s London Street Views, published in the late 1830s, remarks that almost all the street, save for the far western end, was primarily retail. John Lewis started in 1864 as a small shop at No. 132, while Selfridges opened on 15 March 1909 at No. 400. Most of the southern side of Oxford Street west of Davies Street was completely rebuilt between 1865 and 1890, allowing a more uniform freehold ownership. By the 1930s, the street was almost entirely retail, a position that remains today. However, unlike nearby streets such as Bond Street and Park Lane, there remained a seedy element including street traders and prostitutes. Aside from a number of fixed places on the street, there are no provisions for selling licensed goods on Oxford Street. The advent of closed-circuit television has reduced the attraction of the area to scam artists and illegal street traders.


Stanley Green advertising on Oxford Street in 1974

Oxford Street suffered considerable bombing during the Second World War. During the night and early hours of 17 to 18 September 1940, 268 Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 bombers targeted the West End, particularly Oxford Street. Many buildings were damaged, either from a direct hit or subsequent fires, including four department stores: John Lewis, Selfridges, Bourne & Hollingsworth and Peter Robinson. George Orwell wrote in his diary for 24 September that Oxford Street was “completely empty of traffic, and only a few pedestrians”, and saw “innumerable fragments of broken glass”. John Lewis caught fire again on 25 September and was reduced to a shell. It remained a bomb site for the remainder of the war and beyond, finally being demolished and rebuilt between 1958 and 1960. Peter Robinson partially reopened on 22 September, though the main storefront remained boarded up. The basement was converted into studios for the BBC Eastern Service. Orwell made several broadcasts here from 1941 to 1943.

Selfridges was bombed again on 17 April 1941, suffering further damage, including the destruction of the Palm Court Restaurant. The basement was converted to a communications base, with a dedicated line run along Oxford Street to Whitehall, and allowed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make secure and direct telephone calls to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The store was damaged again on 6 December 1944 after a V2 rocket exploded on nearby Duke Street, causing its Christmas tree displays to collapse into the street outside. Damage was quickly repaired and the shop re-opened the following day.

2.3 | Post-War


A view of Oxford Street in 1987, with Selfridges on the right

In September 1973 a shopping-bag bomb was detonated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the offices of the Prudential Assurance Company on Oxford Street, injuring six people. A second bomb was detonated by the IRA on the street by Selfridges in December 1974, injuring three people and causing £1.5 million worth of damage. Oxford Street was again targeted by the IRA in August 1975; an undiscovered bomb that had been booby trapped exploded without any injuries. The IRA also detonated a bomb at the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in December 1992 along with another in nearby Cavendish Square, injuring four.

The human billboard Stanley Green began selling on Oxford Street in 1968, advertising his belief in the link of proteins to sexual libido and the dangers therein. He regularly patrolled the street with a placard headlined “less passion from less protein”, and advertised his pamphlet Eight Passion Proteins with Care until his death in 1993. His placards are now housed in the British Museum.

Centre Point, just beyond the eastern end of Oxford Street next to Tottenham Court Road station, was designed by property developer Harry Hyams and opened in 1966. It failed to find a suitable tenant and sat empty for many years, eventually being occupied by squatters who used it as a centre of protest against the lack of suitable accommodation in Central London. In 2015, the building began to be converted into residential flats, with development expected to finish in 2017.

3 | Buildings


A blue plaque at No. 363 Oxford Street commemorating the founding of HMV in 1921

Oxford Street is home to a number of major department stores and flagship retail outlets, containing over 300 shops as of 2012. It is the most frequently visited shopping street in Inner London, attracting over half a million daily visitors in 2014, and is one of the most popular destinations in London for tourists, with an annual estimated turnover of over £1 billion. It forms part of a shopping district in the West End of London, along with other streets including Covent Garden, Bond Street and Piccadilly.

The New West End Company, formerly the Oxford Street Association, is a group that oversees stores and trade along the street; its objective is to make the place safe and desirable for shoppers. They have been critical of the overcrowding and quality of shops and started to clamp down on abusive traders, who have then been refused licences.

Several British retail chains regard their Oxford Street branch as the flagship store. Debenhams originally opened as Marshall & Snelgrove in 1870; in 1919 they merged with Debenhams, which had opened in nearby Wigmore Street in 1778. The company was owned by Burton between 1985 and 1998. The London flagship store of the House of Fraser began as D H Evans in 1879 and moved to its current premises in 1935. It was the first department store in the UK with escalators serving every floor. Selfridges, Oxford Street, the second-largest department store in the UK and flagship of the Selfridges chain, has been in Oxford Street since 1909.


The 100 Club has been a live music venue in the basement of No. 100 Oxford Street since 1942, and has been an important venue for trad jazz, British blues and punk bands.

Marks & Spencer has two stores on Oxford Street. The first, Marks & Spencer Marble Arch, is at the junction with Orchard Street. A second branch between Regent Street and Tottenham Court Road stands on the former site of the Pantheon.

The music retailer HMV was opened at No. 363 Oxford Street in 1921 by Sir Edward Elgar. The Beatles made their first recording in London in 1962, when they cut a 78rpm demo disc in the store. A larger store at No. 150 was opened in 1986 by Sir Bob Geldof, and was the largest music shop in the world at 60,000 square feet (6,000 m2). As well as music and video retail, the premises supported live gigs in the store. Due to financial difficulties, the store closed in 2014, with all retail moving to No. 363.

The 100 Club, in the basement of No. 100, has been running as a live music venue since 24 October 1942. It was thought to be safe from bombing threats due to its underground location, and played host to jazz musicians, including Glenn Miller. It was renamed the London Jazz Club in 1948, and subsequently the Humphrey Lyttelton Club after Lyttelton took over the lease in the 1950s. Louis Armstrong played at the venue during this time. It became a key venue for the trad jazz revival, hosting gigs by Chris Barber and Acker Bilk. It was renamed the 100 Club in 1964 after Roger Horton bought a stake in the venue, adding an alcohol licence for the first time. The venue hosted gigs by several British blues bands, including the Who, the Kinks and the Animals. It was an important venue for punk rock in the UK and hosted the first British punk festival on 21 September 1976, featuring the Sex Pistols, the Damned and the Buzzcocks.

The Tottenham is a Grade II* listed public house at No. 6 Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road. It was built in the mid-19th century and is the last remaining pub in the street, which once had 20.

The London College of Fashion has an Oxford Street campus, which is on John Prince’s Street near Oxford Circus. The college is part of the University of the Arts London, formerly the London Institute.

The cosmetics retailer Lush opened a store in Oxford Street in 2015. Measuring 9,300 square feet (860 m2) and containing three floors, it is the company’s largest retail premises.

4 | Transport Links

Oxford Street is served by many major bus routes and by four tube stations of the London Underground. From Marble Arch eastwards, these stations are as follows:

Marble Arch, on the Central line

Bond Street, on the Central line and Jubilee line

Oxford Circus, on the Central line, Bakerloo line and Victoria line

Tottenham Court Road, on the Central line and Northern line

The four stations serve an average of 100 million passengers every year, with Oxford Circus being the busiest.

Crossrail, a major project involving an east-west rail route across London, will have two stations serving Oxford Street, at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. Each station will be “double-ended”, with exits through the existing tube station and also some distance away: to the east of Bond Street, in Hanover Square near Oxford Circus; to the west of Tottenham Court Road, in Dean Street.

5 | Traffic


On average, half a million people visit Oxford Street every day, and foot traffic is in severe competition with buses and taxis.

Oxford Street has been ranked as the most important retail location in Britain and the busiest shopping street in Europe. The street is often congested both on the pavements, due to the large number of shoppers and tourists, many of whom arrive at one of the tube stations, and on the roadway as a result of the many buses routed along the street.

There is heavy competition between foot and bus traffic on Oxford Street, which is the main east-west bus corridor through Central London. Around 175,000 people get on or off a bus on Oxford Street every day, along with 43,000 further through passengers. Taxis are popular, particularly along the stretch between Oxford Circus and Selfridges. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 71 accidents involving traffic and pedestrians. In 2016, a report suggested buses generally did not travel faster than 4.6 miles per hour (7.4 km/h), compared to a typical pedestrian speed of 3.1 miles per hour (5.0 km/h).

There have been several proposals to reduce congestion on Oxford Street. Horse-drawn vehicles were banned in 1931, and traffic signals were installed in the same year. To alleviate congestion and help traffic flow of buses, most of Oxford Street is designated a bus lane during peak daytime hours, when private vehicles are banned. It is only open to buses, taxis and two-wheeled vehicles between 7:00am and 7:00pm on all days except Sundays. The ban was introduced experimentally in June 1972. It was considered a success, with an estimated increase of £250,000 in retail sales. In 2009, a new diagonal crossing opened at Oxford Circus, allowing pedestrians to cross from one corner of Oxford Street to the opposite corner without having to cross the road twice or use the pedestrian underpass. This doubles the pedestrian capacity at the junction.

5.1 | Pedestrianisation

From 2005 to 2012, Oxford Street was completely traffic-free on a Saturday before Christmas, which became known as VIP Day (for “Very Important Pedestrians”). The scheme was popular and boosted sales by over £17m in 2012. In 2013, the New West End Company announced that the scheme would not go ahead that year as it wanted to do “something new”. In 2014 Liberal Democrat members of the London Assembly proposed that Oxford Street should be pedestrianised by 2020.

In 2006, the New West End Company and the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, put forward proposals to pedestrianise Oxford Street with a tram service running end to end. However the next Mayor, Boris Johnson, elected in 2008, announced that the scheme would not go ahead as it was not cost effective and too disruptive. In response to a request from Johnson, Transport for London undertook to reduce the bus flow in Oxford Street by 10% in both 2009 and 2010. Subsequently, the New West End Company called for a 33% reduction in bus movements in Oxford Street.

In 2014, Transport for London suggested that pedestrianisation may not be a suitable long-term measure due to Crossrail reducing the demand for bus services along Oxford Street, and proposed to ban all traffic except buses and cycles during peak shopping times. Optimisation of existing traffic signals along the street, including Pedestrian Countdown signals, have also been proposed. Transport for London is concerned that in the long term traffic problems may affect trade on Oxford Street, which is now competing with shopping centres such as Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City and the Brent Cross shopping centre. In 2015, while campaigning for election as London Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan favoured the full pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, which was supported by other parties. After winning the election, he pledged the street would be completely pedestrianised by 2020, including a ban on buses and taxis.

6 | Pollution

In 2014, a report by a King’s College, London scientist showed that Oxford Street had the world’s highest concentration of nitrogen dioxide pollution, at 135 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3). However, this figure was an average that included night-time, when traffic was much lower. At peak times during the day, levels up to 463 μg/m3 were recorded – over 11 times the permitted EU maximum of 40 μg/m3. Because of the diesel-powered traffic in the street (buses and taxis), annual average NO2 concentrations on Oxford Street are around 180 μg/m3. This is 4.5 times the EU target of 40 μg/m3 (Council Directive 1999/30/EC).

7 | Crime

Oxford Street has had a reputation for having relatively high rates of crime. In 2005 an internal Metropolitan Police report named it as the most dangerous street in Central London. In 2012 an analysis of crime statistics revealed that Oxford Street was the shopping destination most surrounded by crime in Britain. During 2011, there were 656 vehicle crimes, 915 robberies, 2,597 violent crimes and 5,039 reported instances of anti-social behaviour.

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates issued a travel advisory warnings its citizens to avoid Oxford Street and other areas of Central London such as Bond Street and Piccadilly due to “pickpocketing, fraud and theft”.

8 | Christmas Lights


The 2016 Oxford Street Christmas lights

Every Christmas, Oxford Street is decorated with festive lights. The tradition of Christmas lights began in 1959, five years after the neighbouring Regent Street. There were no light displays in 1976 or 1977 due to economic recession, but the lights returned in 1978 when Oxford Street organised a laser display, and they have been there every year since.

Current practice involves a celebrity turning the lights on in mid- to late-November, and they remain lit until 6 January (Twelfth Night). The festivities were postponed in 1963 due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and in 1989 to fit Kylie Minogue’s touring commitments. In 2015, the lights were switched on earlier, on Sunday 1 November, resulting in an unusual closure of the street to all traffic.

The following celebrities have turned on the lights since 1981:

  • 1981 — Pilín León (Miss World, Venezuela)
  • 1982 — Daley Thompson
  • 1983 — Pat Phoenix
  • 1984 — Esther Rantzen
  • 1985 — Bob Geldof
  • 1986 — Leslie Grantham, Anita Dobson
  • 1987 — Derek Jameson
  • 1988 — Terry Wogan
  • 1989 — Kylie Minogue
  • 1990 — Cliff Richard
  • 1991 — Westminster Children’s Hospital
  • 1992 — Linford Christie
  • 1993 — Richard Branson
  • 1994 — Lenny Henry
  • 1995 — Coronation Street cast
  • 1996 — Spice Girls
  • 1997 — Peter Andre
  • 1998 — Zoë Ball
  • 1999 — Ronan Keating
  • 2000 — Charlotte Church
  • 2001 — S Club 7
  • 2002 — Blue
  • 2003 — Enrique Iglesias
  • 2004 — Emma Watson, Il Divo, Steve Redgrave
  • 2005 — Westlife
  • 2006 — All Saints
  • 2007 — Leona Lewis
  • 2008 — Sugababes
  • 2009 — Jim Carrey
  • 2010 — Children from Kids Company
  • 2011 — The Saturdays
  • 2012 — Robbie Williams
  • 2013 — Jessie J
  • 2014 — Cheryl Fernandez-Versini
  • 2015 — Kylie Minogue
  • 2016 — Craig David

9 | Listed Buildings

Oxford Street has several Grade II listed buildings. In addition, the facades to Oxford Circus tube station are also listed.

Listed buildings


No. 147 Oxford Street


United Kingdom House

10 | Cultural References

Oxford Street is mentioned in several works by Charles Dickens. In A Tale of Two Cities, the street (as Oxford Road) is described as having “very few buildings”, though in fact it was heavily built up by the late 18th century. It is also referred to in Sketches by Boz and Bleak House.

The street is a square on the British Monopoly game board, forming part of the green set (together with Regent Street and Bond Street). The three streets were grouped together as they are all primarily retail areas. In 1991, music manager and entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren produced The Ghosts of Oxford Street, a musical documentary about life and history in the local area.

11 | Gallery