Charing Cross Road
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Charing Cross Road is a street in central London running immediately north of St Martin-in-the-Fields to St Giles Circus (the intersection with Oxford Street) and then becomes Tottenham Court Road. It is so called because it serves Charing Cross railway station (named for the nearby Charing Cross).
Charing Cross Road was developed, in conjunction with Shaftesbury Avenue, by the Metropolitan Board of Works under an 1877 Act of Parliament at a cost of £778,238. The two streets and others such as the Thames Embankment, Northumberland Avenue, Kingsway and Aldwych were built to improve traffic flow through central London. It incorporated the routes of several older streets.
Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops. The section from Leicester Square tube station to Cambridge Circus is home to specialist bookshops, and more general second-hand and antiquarian shops such as Quinto Bookshop, Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books. Most of these shops are located on the ground floor of a block owned by a housing association, which decided in 2001 to raise the rents sharply to bring them closer to the market level. This was opposed by the book dealers, who felt that they were providing a valuable service and contributing to the unique character of the area, and should not be treated in this way by a not-for-profit body. The association's counter-argument was that if the booksellers did not pay a market rent they were being subsidised by its low-income tenants. The booksellers attracted considerable public support and a reduced rent increase was imposed. Several of the bookshops closed nonetheless, including Silver Moon, apparently Europe’s largest women’s interest bookshop, which became part of Foyles. Other shops closed more recently, Zwemmers art bookshop, Shipley the art bookshop in December 2008 and Murder One in 2009. Smaller second-hand and specialist antiquarian bookshops can be found on the adjoining Cecil Court.
The northern section between Cambridge Circus and Oxford Street includes more generalist bookshops such as the venerable Foyles and Blackwell's. A long-standing correspondence between New York City-based author Helene Hanff and the staff of a bookstore on the street, Marks & Co., was the inspiration for the book 84 Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a 1986 film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins and also into a play and a BBC radio drama. 84 Charing Cross Road, located just north of Cambridge Circus, has not been a bookstore for many years; at street level it is now a restaurant (entered round the corner in Cambridge Circus), but the upper levels of the building remain as originally constructed. A small brass plaque, noted by Hanff in her book "Q's Lecacy", remains on the stone pilaster facing Charing Cross Road.
The music venue the Astoria was located here, as is one of the sites of St Martin's Arts College, as well as the music shops on Denmark Street (known as Britain's Tin Pan Alley). A number of theatres are nearby, such as the Phoenix Theatre which has its entrance on the adjoining Phoenix Street.
An interesting local feature can be found in the middle of Charing Cross Road at its junction with Old Compton Street. Beneath the grille in the traffic island in the middle of the road, the old road signs for the now-vanished Little Compton Street can be seen. This road once joined Old Compton Street with New Compton Street.
- Book Lovers' London, by Lesley Reader, Metro Publications, paperback, 2nd edition, 2002, ISBN 1-902910-13-3; 3rd edition, 2005, ISBN 1-902910-26-5