Image: Historic England “Shopping parade with offices, formerly flats, over. 1906-10. By RJ Worley. For the Bedford Estate.”
*Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, in a translation of “The Leopard” (his novel that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento).
From: Dimore Storiche Italiane: The history of Palazzo Lanza Tomasi:
“In 1849 the palazzo was bought by Prince Giulio Fabrizio di Lampedusa, with the indemnity paid by the king of Naples for the expropriation of the island of Lampedusa. Giulio Fabrizio, an amateur astronomer, would be the model for the main character in “The Leopard”, the novel written by his great-grandson Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. In 1862 De Paces, rich ship-owners related to the Florio family, bought half of the palazzo and transformed it according to the taste of the period. An imposing staircase was created using marbles salvaged from the demolitions made for the building of the Massimo Opera House. A grand ballroom was built with a wooden floor made of alternating walnut and cherry staves.”
Charley Bolding-Smith wrote for the Times of Sicily (the Casa Florio magazine) of 30.3.15., about:
“…the unique piece of London architecture located on the apex of Southampton Row and Bloomsbury Way known as Sicilian Avenue (see image).
It provides an impressive, if somewhat whimsical sight. The architecture style employed isn’t that of Sicilian Baroque, the distinctive form of Baroque architecture that became fashionable on Sicily in the 17th and 18th centuries, but, instead, the neo-classism that superseded it, on both the island, and elsewhere in Europe. The Avenue has grand entrance ways of Ionic columns supporting elaborate balustrades, with the name ‘Sicilian Avenue’ inscribed upon them.
Sicilian Avenue was designed by the architect R.J. Worley in 1906, and completed in 1910. The Italian marble that originally covered the avenue was replaced in the 1920’s although a small section still remains. It was created as a pedestrianized shopping street, one of the first in London. The area is still used as such today, and contains a variety of shops and restaurants, including second hand bookshops and restaurants (including one from the ‘Spaghetti House’ chain, but none with a Sicilian connection). Be sure to look up at the lovely ornate carved stone facades; above, the Edwardian mansions are made from red brick with white terracotta dressings.
The edges of the walkway are lined with flowers and bushes, and in the summer, particularly, this pleasant spot has a truly old-world Italian feel. So next time you’re visiting the British Museum (a five minute walk away) – or, indeed, the Princess Louise Public House – be sure to admire this delightful splash of Sicily in the centre of London.”
“(Kenneth) Allinson (2008) states that Robert Worley (1850–1930) of the architectural practice Worley & Saunders, was “involved in all kinds of speculative developments”. He and his brother Charles are listed jointly as the architects of 41 Harley Street.
Robert Worley and James Ebenezer Saunders formed the architectural practice Worley & Saunders.
Worley designed Sicilian Avenue, Holborn and the London Pavilion (now part of the Trocadero Centre), Piccadilly Circus, and Albert Court, a mansion block next to the Royal Albert Hall, all of which are now Grade II listed).”
From the website of the UCL Bloomsbury Project:
“For many people the Bedford estate and Bloomsbury are synonymous, although sales of land in the twentieth century have reduced the original 112 acres to a mere 20 (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914; Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986)
The Bloomsbury holdings of the Duke of Bedford originated as the estate of Thomas Wriothesley, later Earl of Southampton, who acquired them at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545 (Camden History Society, Streets of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, 1997)
This estate was inherited by Rachel (née Wriothesley), daughter of the fourth Earl of Southampton, when the Southampton title became extinct; it passed into the Russell family, Dukes of Bedford, through her marriage to the heir of the first Duke of Bedford…
For the crucial part played by Thomas Cubitt in the development of this estate, see Hermione Hobhouse, Thomas Cubitt: Master Builder (1971)…
“Far from being typical, the Bedford estate may well have been the best managed urban estate in England” (Donald Olsen, Town Planning in London, 2nd edn, 1984).” “.
A thought about the name:
Sicilian Avenue lies seven minutes’ walk from Sardinia Street, which was named after the old Sardinia Street that was demolished during the construction of Kingsway in 1905.
Direct Ferries: “There is currently just the 1 ferry route running between Sicily and Sardinia operated by 1 ferry company – Tirrenia. The Palermo to Cagliari ferry crossing operates weekly with a scheduled sailing duration from about 12 hours 1 minute.”