Guide type: Area Guide
17th August 2015
Photo credit: BBC
From the 1930s the area between Great Portland Street and Gower Street became known to its inhabitants as Fitzrovia. The locality was first developed by Charles Fitzroy, Lord of the Manor of Tottenhall, from 1757. Fitzroy built for the upper classes, but they soon migrated south-westwards to Belgravia and Mayfair, forcing a subdivision of the aristocratic houses into workshops, studios and rooms to let.
Immigrants from France and neighbouring countries crowded in and helped establish the district as a centre for the furniture trade by the end of the 18th century. Thomas Chippendale was among the craftsmen who set up shop here.
In the 1930s Augustus John and Dylan Thomas helped build a Bohemian reputation for the area north of Oxford Street – which was considered by many at that time to be the northern part of Soho.
The area was also once home to famed English writer Virginia Woolf, Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics George Bernard Shaw and French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
The first significant construction of Hanway Street started around the 1720s and by the 1740s, much of the land around was starting to be developed. The area was closely associated with coaching inns which developed close to the busy crossroads, and in 1841 the road was widened with land donated by E.H. Baldock of Baldock’s shop. Extensive rebuilding then took place between 1850 and 1920.
The Street is rumoured to be named after the Portsmouth-born traveller, philanthropist and Hanway resident, Jonas Hanway (1712-1786). Records around 1740 indicate that the footpath was initially known as Hanover Yard, before becoming Hanway Yard and then finally Hanway Street. Hanway is most famous for being the first Londoner to brave ridicule by championing the use of an umbrella, however, he also founded The Marine Society in 1756, became governor of the Foundling Hospital two years later and then went on to help establish the Magdalen Hospital.
Hanway Place is home to the Westminster Jews’ Free School, which was opened in 1811. A famous pupil of the school was Harry Ehrengott, the only fireman during World War Two who was awarded the George Cross for Bravery – the highest honour that can be awarded to a civilian – personally by King George VI.
The historic street reached conservation status in 1990. Offering an unexpected break from the retail whirlwind of Oxford Circus, this narrow, curving lane is peppered with independent shops, semi-industrial Victorian buildings and quirky bars. Still standing are the listed headed bollards that mark the boundary for the Parish of St Marylebone.
Today, Hanway Street still retains its selection of small shops, semi-industrial Victorian buildings and modest housing. The eastern end of Oxford Street is currently undergoing a rapid transformation and is set to offer an exciting mix of landmark buildings, a public piazza and new flagship retail space along with the £1bn transformation of Tottenham Court Road station completing in 2016 and the arrival of Crossrail in 2018.
If you're looking for a flat in Fitzrovia, Frogmore and Galliard Homes (acting as selling agent) are offering the perfect place at Hanway Gardens. There will be a premium choice of 18 individually designed one, two and three bedroom apartments and lavish penthouses; arranged from the second to the sixth floor and interspersed with an array of multi-level roof gardens.