Long Acre, London
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Long Acre is a street in central London that runs from St. Martin's Lane in the west to Covent Garden piazza, one block north of Floral Street. The street was completed in the early 17th century. It was once known for its coach-makers, and later for its car dealers. On the corner of Mercer Street it is still possible to read the inscription "Armstrong Siddeley Connaught Coachworks".
Long Acre is numbered 1 to 77 on the south side and 78 to 144 on the north side. At number 10-12 is Stanfords, one of the oldest and most extensive map shops in the UK. At the junction with James Street is Covent Garden tube station. Almost directly opposite is Neal Street. The whole area on the north side from Neal Street to Arne Street was occupied by Odhams Press from about 1890 to 1970. They published John Bull, which was the most popular magazine in Britain from 1916 to 1934. Odhams also published The Daily Herald, Women's Own, Debrett's and The Sporting Life (founded 1859). Odhams was bought by the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) in 1961, and the site was closed down in 1969. Prior to Odhams, the site was occupied by the Queen's Theatre (1867–1878), the second largest theatre in London at the time, after Drury Lane. It was here that Ellen Terry first met Henry Irving in a Shakespearean role. There is a plaque to commemorate the theatre, but it has been placed on the wrong block. The theatre was to the east of Endell Street, not the west. On "Acre House" (number 69 to 75) is a green plaque commemorating Denis Johnson's workshop. He lived c. 1760 to 1833 and had a workshop here in 1819, selling "hobby horse" bicycles, the first to be sold in the UK.
The coachbuilding trade dominated Long Acre in the nineteenth century - in 1906 41 buildings in the street were occupied by firms associated with transport, a mixture of traditional coachbuilders and those connected with the motor trade. By 1916 the transition to motor cars and related trades was almost complete. The Mercedes showroom was at number 127 to 130, close to Daimler and Fiat. At number 132 in 1929, John Logie Baird made the first British television broadcast. Just off Long Acre is Langley Street, home of the famous Pineapple Dance Studios and London Film School - the oldest film school in the world. Just opposite, until 2000, was Paxman, one of the best English manufacturers of French horns. It is said that the poet Richard Lovelace spent his final years in Long Acre, in great poverty. As a young man Thomas Paine worked as a corset maker in Long Acre. In 1896 "The Freemason's Arms" was built, and still stands on Long Acre. Masonic symbols adorn the façade.
- Coachbuilding in London. Robert Vickers. London's Industrial Archaeology No.5 1994
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