Aldwych

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Part of Aldwych pictured in 2011

Aldwych (pronounced /ˈɔːldwɪ/) is a one-way street and also the name of the area immediately surrounding the street, in the City of Westminster in London. The short street is situated 0.6 miles (1 km) north-east of Charing Cross and forms part of the A4 route from London to Avonmouth, Bristol.

The Aldwych area forms part of the Northbank business improvement district.[1] It is known for a number of notable sites and for giving its name to a closed Underground station nearby, which has been used as a filming location in numerous films and television shows.

Overview[edit]

Aldwych, the street, is a crescent, connected to the Strand at both ends. It forms part of the A4 route and carries traffic in a one-way eastbound direction. Streets adjoining Aldwych include Drury Lane, Kingsway, India Place and Melbourne Place. Notable buildings along its length include:

Facing Aldwych, on the Strand, is the closed Aldwych tube station, which was originally named Strand station. Aldwych station was closed in 1994 but has since been used for filming scenes in a number of films and television shows.

History[edit]

The name Aldwych derives from the Old English eald and wic, meaning 'old trading town' or 'old marketplace'; the name was later applied to the street and surrounding district. It was recorded as Aldewich in 1211. In the seventh century, an Anglo-Saxon village and trading centre named Lundenwic ('London trading town') was established approximately one mile to the west of Londinium (named Lundenburh or 'London Fort' by the Saxons) in what is now Aldwych. Lundenwic probably used the mouth of the River Fleet as a harbour or anchorage for trading ships and fishing boats.

Lundenwic was "rediscovered" in the 1980s after the results of extensive excavations were reinterpreted as being urban in character. These conclusions were reached independently by the archaeologists, Alan Vince and Martin Biddle. Recent excavations in the Covent Garden area have uncovered an extensive Anglo-Saxon settlement, covering about 600,000 square metres (150 acres), stretching from the present-day National Gallery site in the west, to Aldwych in the east. As the presumed locus of the city, Lundenburh, was moved back within the old Roman walls, the older settlement of Lundenwic gained the name of ealdwic, 'old settlement', a name which evolved into Aldwych.[2]

The modern street was created in a redevelopment in the early 20th century that saw the demolition of the old Wych Street and the construction of Australia House (built 1913-18) and Bush House (completed 1925). A statue of the 19th-century prime minister William Ewart Gladstone was installed in 1905 near St Clement Danes church, at the eastern end of Aldwych.

In 1906, Aldwych tramway station was opened underneath Kingsway; it closed in 1952. In 1907, Aldwych tube station was opened on the Strand opposite Aldwych; it closed in 1994.

On 18 February 1996, a bomb was detonated prematurely on a number 171 bus travelling along Aldwych, killing Edward O'Brien, the IRA operative transporting the device; it also injured several passengers aboard the bus.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Northbank District
  2. ^ Hobley B, Lundenwic and Lundenburh: two cities rediscovered, AHDS Archaeology, University of York (PDF)

Coordinates: 51°30′47.7″N 0°07′03.5″W / 51.513250°N 0.117639°W / 51.513250; -0.117639