Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia

From: Penelope Fitzgerald: Charlotte Mew and Her Friends (1984) Chapter Nine – The Quiet House:

“…1909 brought a distinct improvement. Anne had been able, with the small extra income left her by Aunt Mary Kendall, to rent a studio of her own – 6 Hogarth Studios, 64 Charlotte Street, off Fitzroy Street in Soho. This was a true artists’ quarter, and both Anne and Charlotte breathed freer air. You couldn’t cook there, but you could ask friends in and boil a kettle. For the first time Anne had one of her flower paintings accepted by the Royal Academy. Charlotte, for her part, wrote a poem, the first she had produced since her twenties…

The poem, Requiescat, is an elegy for a dead woman…which ends with an elegant variation:

Beyond the line of naked trees

At the roads end, your stretch of blue –

Strange if you should remember these

As we, ah! God! remember you!…”

From Historic England website:

“Charlotte Street, named after Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), was laid out in the 1760s. Built principally as a residential street, from an early date the area attracted a literary and artistic community. The commercial use of ground floors became prevalent in the C19, when the area also became popular with craftsmen. Studios and workshops established in upper floors and rear yards, and European immigrants established businesses and restaurants.”

From UCL Bloomsbury Project:

“In 1894 the whole street from Bedford Square to Shaftesbury Avenue was renamed Bloomsbury Street (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997). Sass’s Academy, an important art school founded in the early 19th century by Henry Sass, was located in a house at 6 Charlotte street, now Bloomsbury Street, on the corner with Streatham Street. Many notable British artists such as William Powell Frith, John Millais, Charles West Cope, William Edward Frost and Dante Gabriel Rossetti received their early training there. In 1842 its management passed to Francis Stephen Cary.”

From Wikipedia:

“…The boundary of Camden and Westminster runs along part of Charlotte Street.

The street has a mix of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century buildings and has reputation for its numerous restaurants serving a wide range of cuisine.

The Scala Theatre, opened 1905, was located on Charlotte Street. A theatre first stood on the site in 1772. From 1865 to 1882, the theatre was known as the Prince of Wales’s Theatre. The theatre was demolished in 1969, after being destroyed by a fire.

The Fitzroy Tavern at 16 Charlotte Street was built as a coffeehouse in 1883. It became famous during the 1920s to the mid-1950s as a meeting place for artists, intellectuals and bohemians, including Dylan Thomas, Lawrence Durrell, Augustus John, and George Orwell.

The Hogarth Club was an exhibition society of artists, based at 84 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London, UK, which existed between 1858 and 1861. It was founded by former members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood after the original PRB had been dissolved. It was envisaged that the club would provide an alternative meeting space and exhibition venue to overcome prejudice against the Pre-Raphaelites at the Royal Academy. Unlike the PRB, the Hogarth Club was established on a professional basis, with two classes of members, artistic and non-artistic, and a distinction between London-based “resident” and provincial “non-resident” members.

Ford Madox Brown suggested that the club be named after William Hogarth since Hogarth was “a painter whom he deeply reverenced as the originator of moral invention and drama in modern art”. Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti had worked on some previous independent exhibitions, but became determined to form a permanent exhibition space after the rejection of Pre-Raphaelite work by the Academy in 1857. In response they created their own exhibition, later founding the Hogarth Club in tandem with other sympathetic artists, most notably William Holman Hunt and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

Despite initial success, the Hogarth Club failed to maintain its momentum, and was finally closed in 1861 after failing to adequately build up its membership in the face of hostility from the Royal Academy. Even the former leading Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais refused to join, as did otherwise sympathetic Royal Academicians such as Augustus Egg.”

From the Hidden London website:

“…Early in the 20th century Walter Sickert and friends formed the Fitzroy Street Group, based in Whistler’s former home at 8 Fitzroy Street.

In the mid to late 1930s Augustus John and Dylan Thomas bolstered the Bohemian reputation of the area north of Oxford Street – which was regarded by many at that time as a northern extension of Soho.

John is widely said to have invented the ‘Fitzrovia’ name, in honour not of Fitzroy Square but of his favourite hostelry, the Fitzroy Tavern (corner of Charlotte St and Windmill St). However, in his excellent book London Calling, local resident Barry Miles credits the coinage to the Ceylonese publisher and editor Meary J Tambimuttu, with the same boozy inspiration.

But it’s possible that neither version of this romanticised story is true. Hidden London believes that the term ‘Fitzrovia’ may have been in use by the late 1920s, based on a reference in 1930 to “Miss Hamnett’s reminiscences of Montparnasse and that district of London which is sometimes known as Fitzrovia.” Nina Hamnett’s memoirs do not mention the Fitzrovia locality by that name, so this reference seems to constitute its first ever appearance in print. None of the people usually credited with inventing the name were frequenting the locality in the late 1920s, except possibly Tom Driberg, and he didn’t use the appellation in his newspaper column until 1940.

Before the Second World War Fitzrovia had a highly visible German community and Charlotte Street – the principal thoroughfare – was nicknamed Charlottenstrasse. Greeks and Italians brought new vitality to the locality after the war, followed later by Nepalese and Bengalis…”

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