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Strand Area

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The Strand district is at the heart of London, it is bounded to the west by St. James and Soho, to the south by the river and Southwark, to the east Holborn and the north Bloomsbury. The district gets it's name from the street that runs through the middle of it. The street gets it's name from the fact that it used to be on the banks of the Thames. In the Tudor and Stuart time the street was lined by aristocratic mansions, whose gardens ran down the slope to the river. It has always been a main route between east and west.

Charing Cross and about

Replica cross outside Charing Cross stationThis is the official geographical centre of London, and according to Dr Johnson "the full tide of human existence is here".

The area known as Charing Cross is the area at the Trafalgar Square end of the Strand.

In about the year 1000 this area used to be a small village, called Cyrringe, outside of London. The name means a bend and is probably derived from the nearby arch in the river. Later the area became the site of the royal Mews.

Centre of London

The cross part of the name comes from the fact that, in 1291, the last resting place for the funeral cortege of Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, on it's way to Westminster Abbey, was here. The exact site is at the top of Whitehall just by the current horse and rider statue. An octagonal cross, the last of 13, was erected to mark the site. The cross was removed in 1647 by the Puritans. The cross outside the nearby railway station is a poor replica.

The centre of London. The statue of Charles  and WhitehallThe site was later used as a place of punishment, the whipping-post can now be found in the crypt of St. Martin's in the Field.

After the restoration in 1660 several regicides where beheaded here. In 1675 a statue of Charles I, looking towards the place of his execution, outside of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, was placed here. The statue itself was cast in 1633 before the abolition of the monarchy. The pedestal is supposed to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

In 1955 it was decided that the statue would marks the official centre of London, and all distances are measured from here.

St. Martin's in the FieldSt. Martin's in the Field

To the esat of Trafalgar Square on St. Martins Place is the church of St. Martin's in the Field. It is the parish church of the Admiralty and the Sovereign, Buckingham Palace being within the boundaries. George I was a churchwarden and Charles II christened here. Other famous patrons include Francis Bacon and John Hampden who where also christened there, while Thomas Moore and John Constable where married in the church.

The current church was built from 1721-6 by James Gibbs, a follower of Wren. Some of the most noticeable features of the building are the Corinthian Columns of the portico and the spire. The inside features piers of Corinthian capitols, an elliptical ceiling, and a font from 1689. On the north side of the chancel is the Royal Box, while on the south is that of the Admiralty.

In the crypt there is a chest from 1597, and the old whipping-post from Charing Cross, dating from 1752. There has been a church on this site since 1222, the forerunner to the current one was built in 1544 for Henry VIII.

In the yard Nell Gwyn (1687) and Jack Sheppard the highwayman are buried here. In Sheppard's case he was carried here by the crowd after his execution, at Tyburn in 1724, to prevent the surgeons from getting his body. The churchyard was cleared in 1829 to make way for Duncannon St., in 1938 the crypt was cleared and turned into an air raid shelter.

Sir Joseph BazalgetteCharing Cross Station Area

When going along the Strand from Trafalgar Square.

At the end of Northumberland Ave. on the Victoria Embankment, is the memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette. He probably is responsible for saving more lives in London than any other person, he was the builder of the first of the city sewage systems between 1858-75. Before London was renowned for its stench, and very regular outbreaks of cholera and other water born diseases. Bazalgette was also responsible for the Albert, Victoria and Chelsea Embankments, which reclaimed 32 acres of land at a cost of £1.55 million between 1868 and 1874.

Further along on the south side of the Strand is Northumberland street at the end is the Sherlock Holmes pub, which contains lots of memorabilia. It is portrayed as the place where the famous detective meet his underworld contacts.The street is named after Northumberland House, which used to be the London residence of the Dukes of Northumberland. The house was demolished in 1874

Craven StreetThe next street along is Craven St., at 34 Heinrich Heine lived in 1827, and at 36 Benjamin Franklin resided from 1757-62 and 1764-72. Further along is the Playhouse theater, where in 1905 an arch from the railway tracks above collapsed and killed 11 people.

A bit further along the Strand is Charing Cross Station. Each weekday over 110,000 people pass through it. The station was built in 1863. In the forecourt is the so called Eleanor's Cross, it was built in 1865 and is a memorial, not a copy, to the original cross that stood in Charing Cross. The site of the station used to be a market and a blacking factory, in which Charles Dickens worked.

Hungerford bridge and Charing Cross StationThe rail tracks and part of the station are on Hungerford Bridge. The current one was built in 1863 and replaced an earlier suspension built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Parts of this earlier bridge were later used in the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol. In 2002 two new food bridges opened, one on each side of the railway bridge. The bridge is open to pedestrians, and the view is well worth it.

On the north side is Coutts Bank, whose most famous customer is the Queen. The bank was founded in 1692. They moved to their current location in 1904. The building, often called the "pepper pot", is older, it was built in 1830 by John Nash. The interior was rebuilt in 1979 and is ultra modern and well worth seeing.

Coutts BankBehind the bank at the junctions of William IV St., Chandos Place and Bedfordbury there are a series of very good pubs.

The Police station on Agar St is the former Charing Cross Hospital.

On the south side just past the station is Villiers St. Rudyard Kipling used to live at 43. Gordons wine bar is a 47, and has been doing business for 300 years.

Next to Gordons is Watergate Walk. Where it crosses Buckingham St. there is a monument to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. Villiers St and Buckingham St are named after him. Villiers was the favourite of James I and Charles I and within 10 years he progressed from being a commoner, to viscount, marquis and then duke. His ruthlessness was his down fall and lead to his assassination in 1628, this in turn lead to the dispute between Charles I and Parliament, the Civil War and the king's own execution.

York WatergateIn 1626 Villiers build a riverside entrance to his house, is know as the York Watergate, it is the only part of York House that remains. It was the gate leading from the house to the river, and marks the point where the bank used to be. The area between Villiers and Buckingham St marks out the bounds of the house. The house was called York House as the land used to belong to the bishop of York and before him the Bishop of Norwich. In 1591 Francis Bacon was born here.

Samuel Pepys lived at 12 from 1679-88 and at 14 Buckingham St until 1701 . Charles Dickens lived at 15, here Miss Betsy Trotwood also had rooms in David Copperfield. Other famous residents include Henry Fielding, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


Of Interest



Eleanor of Castile
Edward 1

St. Giles in the FieldCovent Garden

Covent Garden is the area bounded by Charing Cross Rd to the west, the Strand to the south, Kingways to the east and New Oxford St. to the north.

The southern part of the area was pastureland for St. Peter's Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries the land was given to John Russell, the 1st Earl of Bedford. In 1627 the 4th Earl hired Inigo Jones to build square with houses "fit for gentleman". In the 1650's a few market stalls were established in the square, and in 1670 a royal charter was granted. As the market grew the, so the gentry left, and the area become renowned for its "Turkish Baths" and gambling dens. The area became very run down and in 1877 the square was rebuilt. The market developed into the main fruit, veg and flower market for London. In the 1980's the market was relocated, and the old one turned into a tourist site, this revived the entire area.

Charing Cross Road

The Charing Cross Rd runs from St. Martin Place to St. Giles Circus. It was built in 1877 at the same time as Shaftesbury Av. The path of the road went through some of the most squalid slums in London. Nowadays the road is famous for it's book shops, they vary from the very small to the very large.

St. Giles in the FieldAt number 84 Marks and Co. bookshop used to stand, it was to this shop that Helen Hanff sent her letters, that later became famous in the book "84 Charing Cross Road".

Just to the west along Litchfield St. is St. Martins Theater, the current home of The Mousetrap, the longest running play of all time, it's premiere was in 1952.

Farther along West St., next to the Ambassador Theater is St. Giles Mission Church. The church was originally built in 1700 by Huguenot refugees, it was later bought by the Methodists, and John Wesley preached here.

At the crossing with Shaftesbury Axe is Cambridge Circus. This is the home of the secret service, the Circus, in the George Smiley novels of John Le Carre

Garrick ClubSt. Giles

Farther north, where the road ends at the crossing with Oxford St. is St. Giles Circus. Legend has it that on this site the last of the Knights Templar were burned at the stakes.

To the west is St. Giles High St. which leads to St. Giles Church. Here in 1101 Matilda, wife of Henry I, founded a leper hospital, and dedicated it to St. Giles the patron saint of outcasts. She also started the custom of the "Cup of Charity", whereby condemned prisoners, who pass by on their way to execution at Tyburn, were given a drink. The hospital was closed in 1539 by Henry VIII. The great plague of 1665 started in this area. At its height 1,395 funerals took place in 1 month. The current church was rebuilt in 1733. The interior is well worth seeing.

Farther along on Endell St. stand the "Swiss Church", it was founded in 1762, the current building stems from 1854.

Covent Garden PiazzaSt. Martins Lane

Running parallel to the Charing Cross Rd is the far older St. Martins Lane. Leading off it are 3 small courts, Goodwins to the west and Cecil and St. Martins to the east, all with interesting little shops. Opposite the Albery Theater is where Chippendale used to live.

Long Acre

From St. Martin's Ln. going north east is Long Acre. The street was once the market garden for the monks of Westminster Abbey. Oliver Cromwell used to have a house here. The street became the centre of the coach making industry in the 17 century, and in the 18 furniture making. Thomas Chippendale used to have his workshop here. At number 12-14 stands Stanford Ltd., the largest map shop in the world. At 132-135 John Logie Baird broadcast the first television pictures in 1929. Along Garrick street stands the Garrick club, farther along is Gambas, makers of ballet shoes.

St Pauls Church The Piazza

The original Piazza was built by Inigo Jones in 1627. The current buildings stem from 1833. The building on the north east side closely resemble the originals.

On the west side of the Piazza stands St. Paul's Church. The original church was built by Inigo Jones in 1631. Unfortunately it burned down and was restored in 1871, this is when the entrance was moved from the Piazza side to the Bedford St. end. The church is associated with the theater, and is known as the actors church.

Royal Opera HouseBow Street

The street gets in name from the fact that it curves like a bow, it was built between 1633 and 1677.

On Bow street stands the Royal Opera House, there has been a theater on this site ever since 1732, the current building dates from 1856.

Opposite the theater stands Bow Street Police Court. The original court house was built in 1748, the building was damaged in 1780 during the Gordon Riots. The second magistrate, Henry Fielding, hired 6 volunteer "thief takers", these became known as the "Bow Street runners", who were the first police force in the world.

Royal Opera HouseJust off Bow St. along Catherine St. stands the Theater Royal Dury Lane, a theater has stood here since 1663. Here in 1665 Nell Gwyn made here debut, in 1716 George II was shot, as was George III in 1800, Mary Robinson, who became Gainsborough's favourite model, was discovered, by the then Prince of Wales, and William IV meet Dorothea Jordan, with whom he had 10 children.



Marquees of Granby
Moon under water
Green Man and French Horn

Adam StMiddle Strand

At the north end of Buckingham St is John Adam St. This is the site of the Adelphi, a housing development build between 1768 and 1774 by the four Adams brothers. All that remains now is 4-6 John Adam St, 7 Adam St and 1-3 Robert St. David Garrick, Thomas Hardy, Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hood, John Galsworthy, Sir James Barrie, H. G. Wells and Richard D'Oyly Carte all lived here at some time. At 8 John Adam St. is the Royal Society of Arts.

Down towards the embankment are the Victoria Embankment Gardens. In the gardens there is memorial to the Imperial Camel Corpe. On the embankment itself stand Cleopatra's Needle, in fact it has nothing to do with Cleopatra, but dates from 1500 BC in the reign of Thothmes III. It was presented to Britain in 1819 by Mohammed Ali, the Egyptian viceroy. Opposite is the Belgian War Memorial.

On the north side of the Strand is the Adelphi Theater, this was built in 1806, by a local tradesman John Scott in order to help his daughters career. In 1897 the actor William Terris was shot outside the theater by a lunatic.

Queens Chapel of the SavoyFurther east on the south side is Savoy Court, leading to the Savoy Hotel. On the right hand side is the Savoy Theater. It was built in 1881 by Richard D'Oyly Carte. This was the first public building in the world to be lit by electrical light. On entering the street, note on which side the cars are driving, this is the only street in the UK where you drive on the right, this needed a special act of Parliament. On this site there used to be a palace built by Henry II. In 1246 it was given to the Earl of Richmond, who was also the the Count of Savoy, this later passed to Simon de Montfort, who was one of the founders of the House of Commons, he lead the baron revolt against Henry III. King John of France was held prisoner (1356) and died here in 1364, after being taken prisoner. Geoffrey Chaucer was married here in around 1366. It was later passed to John of Gaunt, who's son Henry Bolingbroke become Henry IV. During the Wat Tyler rebellion in 1381 the palace was stormed and burned down. In 1505 Henry VII built a hospital on the site.

Further along to the east on the south side is Savoy St, here is the Queens Chapel of the Savoy. This belonged to the Duke of Lancaster, who is always the reigning monarch. The current chapel was built in 1864, but there has been one on the site since 1505.

On the north side at the junction of Wellington St stands the Lyceum Theater, here Henry Irving and Ellen Terry gave many of their great performances.


Of Interest




Somerset HouseAldwych

Across the junction of the Aldwych is Marconi House, from where the worlds first commercial broadcasting was made in May 1922.

On the south side is Somerset House, this was built between 1776-86. The side facing the road is actually the back entrance, the main facade faces south. On the site in 1547, the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector of Edward VI, built a palace, unfortunately he was executed before its completion. Elizabeth I lived here for a while during the reign of her half sister Mary. Later it became a residence for the wife's of James I, Charles I and Charles II. In 1652 Inigo Jones is believed to have died here. Oliver Cromwell was laid in state here in 1658. Somerset used to act as the central repository the records of births, marriages and deaths. It has recently been converted into galleries. In the courtyard, in summer there are a series of fountains and in winter an ice ring.

St. Mary Le StrandOn the south side of the Aldwych in the middle of the Strand stands St. Mary Le Strand. The current church was built in from 1714-17 by James Gibbs. The rector of one of the former churches was Thomas Becket, who later achieved sainthood. Charles Dickens was married here.

Where the Aldwych rejoins the Strand and Arundel St starts is the statue to W. E. Gladstone. At the end of Arundel St is Temple Gardens, outside of which stand 2 griffins, these mark the boundary of the City of London.

Further along the Strand is the church of St Clement Danes. It was built between 1680-81 by Sir Christopher Wren. In 1941 the church was destroyed by bombing, but fully rebuilt. The steeple was added later in 1719-20. It is now the church of the RAF. The name comes from that fact that a community of Danes lived in the area before the Norman Conquest, and it is claimed to be the burial site of Harold I who died in 1040. Out side at the east end is a memorial to Dr. Samuel Johnson, who regularly attended services here. The church's most famous claim to fame is it's place in a nursery rhyme

St Clement DanesOranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements
You owe me 5 farthings say the bells of St Martin's
When will you pay me say the bells of the old Bailey
When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be say the bells of Stepney
I do not know says the great bell of Bow.

To the north stand the Royal Courts of Justice.

A little further along stands the Twinings Tea shop, it is one of the smallest stores in London.

Temple BarTemple Bar marks the boundary of the City of London. Some kind of marking seems to have stood here since the 12 century if not earlier. This was also a site for public punishments as well as the displaying of the heads of those executed, including Titus Oats and Daniel Defoe. It is traditional that when the monarch passes "permission" is asked. The lord mayor, meets the monarch, and surrenders the sword of state, which is then returned and carried in front of the procession.


This street runs north-south from the Aldwych to High Holborn. It is 100 feet wide and was built in 1906. Under the road is the former tram barn.



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Copyright 1998 - 2012 Juerg Mueller. Date last modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2007 01:24:21 CEST