An Afternoon In Old Marylebone
With the recent change in the weather, I thought I could risk a trip beyond Spitalfields and so I took the Metropolitan Line from Liverpool St Station over to Baker St and spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the wonders of Marylebone.
It was a reconnaissance in advance of my MAGIC LANTERN SHOW at the beautiful Daunt Books, Marylebone High St, next Thursday 20th March, where I shall be showing one hundred of my favourite photographs and lantern slides of London, old and new, and telling the stories of the people and the places.
Peeling off from the teeming crowds heading for Madame Tussauds and the Planetarium, I crossed Euston Rd to the parish church of St Mary, that once stood upon the banks of the bourne which gives the place its name and flowed south from here towards Oxford St where it became the Tyburn. Thomas Hardwick’s cool classicism of 1813 promised a welcome respite from the clamour of the traffic racing past outside, an effect only marginally undermined by the array of gruesome Lentern sculptures of the Crucifixion including a skeleton carrying a cross.
From here, I took the shortcut through the cobbled churchyard, beside St Marylebone School founded as the Day School of Industry in 1791, and turned right past the obelisk commemorating Charles & Sarah Wesley that commands a tiny yard, offered now as a garden of ease and reflection for exhausted shoppers struggling up from Oxford St. Lest I should get distracted by the fancy shops in the High St myself, I turned right again into Paddington St to peer into James Taylor & Sons, Shoemakers since 1857, when the founder walked from Norwich to start the business.
Crossing the road, I entered the narrow Grotto Passage which offers a portal to another Marylebone than the affluence which prevails elsewhere. Through the passage, you discover the Grotto Ragged & Industrial School beside a huge Laundry House at the centre of Ossington Buildings, a nineteenth-century complex of social housing dating from 1888. These narrow streets lead you through to the seclusion of Paddington St Gardens, a former burial ground, bordered by iron bollards with St Mary Le Bone 1828 in relief. Here in the gardens, school children at play and mothers with their tots attest to the domestic life of Marylebone, while in Chiltern St I discovered Webster’s Ironmongers in business since 1870, a rare survivor of the traditional businesses that once lined these streets before the chain stores of Oxford St ventured northwards. The current owner has been behind the counter for thirty years, cherishing Websters as a temple to the glories of hardware and household goods.
Turning another corner into Manchester St, with its magnificent early nineteenth century terraces, delivered my return to the London of wealth, ascending in architectural grandeur as I strolled down towards Manchester Sq, commanded by The Wallace yet fascinating to me for the elaborate drinking fountain given by the Citizens of Shoreditch and the wrought iron curlicules of the decorative lamps upon the stucco villas. Turning east across Thayer St and into Marylebone Lane, the Golden Hind Fish Bar has long been a personal landmark with its immaculate fascia of 1914, perfect save the loss of the letter ‘D,’ spelling “Golden Hin…”
A different urban landscape opens up beyond the charismatic meander of Marylebone Lane, it is that of wide boulevards and tall mansions comprising Wimpole St and Harley St, interwoven by cobbled mews in which you can wander, as if behind the scenes at the theatre, observing the scenery from the reverse – where the mish-mash of accreted structures concealed by those impermeable facades are revealed. Leaving these exposed thoroughfares where the traffic hurtles through and the pavement grants no shelter to the lone pedestrian, I set out to walk west as the shadows lengthened, crossing Marylebone High St again and following Paddington St as it became Crawford St where the neighbourhood declines towards Edgeware Rd.
My destination was Robert Smirke’s St Mary’s Bryanston Sq of 1823, defining a favourite corner of Marylebone where, bordered by the Euston Rd, Edgeware Rd and Oxford St, a quiet enclave of old London persists.
Marylebone Parish Church by Thomas Hardwick 1813
Inside Marylebone Parish Church
Staircase by Thomas Hardwick
Memorial to Charles & Sarah Wesley in Marylebone High St
James Taylor & Sons Ltd, shoes made since 1857
The late Lord Butler’s lasts
Industrial dwellings in Grotto Passage
The Grotto Ragged & Industrial School, Established 1846
Looking through Grotto Passage towards Paddington St Gardens
Old mausoleum in Paddington St Gardens
Websters of Chiltern St since 1870
In Manchester St
Drinking fountain from Shoreditch now in the grounds of The Wallace
Decorative lamps in Manchester Sq
The Golden Hind Fish Bar of 1914 in Marylebone Lane
44 Wimpole St
“cobbled mews in which you can wander, as if behind the scenes at the theatre”
90 Harley St, London’s oldest dental practice established 1924
“the mish-mash of accreted structures concealed by those impermeable facades”
Daunt Books, Marylebone High St
Meacher, Higgins & Thomas, chemist since 1814 - Purveyors of photographic chemicals
St Mary’s, Bryanston Sq, by Robert Smirke
At Baker St, the return to Whitechapel