Carnaby Street

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Carnaby Street
Namesake Karnaby House
Maintained by Westminster City Council
Location Soho, Central London
Coordinates 51°30′48″N 0°08′20″W / 51.51333°N 0.13889°W / 51.51333; -0.13889Coordinates: 51°30′48″N 0°08′20″W / 51.51333°N 0.13889°W / 51.51333; -0.13889
South end Beak Street
North end Great Marlborough Street
Inauguration 1685 or 1686
Known for 1960s fashion
Status Pedestrianised

Carnaby Street is a pedestrianised shopping street in the City of Westminster, central London, located in the Soho district, near Oxford Street and Regent Street. It is home to numerous fashion and lifestyle retailers, including a large number of independent fashion boutiques.

Streets crossing, or meeting with, Carnaby Street are, from south to north, Beak Street, Broadwick Street, Kingly Court, Ganton Street, Marlborough Court, Lowndes Court, Fouberts Place, Little Marlborough Street and Great Marlborough Street. The nearest London Underground station is Oxford Circus tube station (on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines).


Swinging London, Carnaby Street, c. 1966.
Irvine Sellars and other boutiques, Carnaby Street, 1968.

Historically, Carnaby Street derives its name from Karnaby House, located to its east and originally erected in 1683. It is not known anymore why the house was called this. The street was probably laid out in 1685 or 1686. First appearing in the ratebooks in 1687, the street was almost completely built up by 1690 with small houses. A market was developed in the 1820s; in his novel, Sybil (1845), Benjamin Disraeli refers to "a carcase-butcher famous in Carnaby-market".[1]

This area is also notable as the area about where cholera broke out in 1854 leading to an early application of fundamental epidemiological principles to resolve the crisis. John Snow was a physician who recognized that the cholera cases were concentrated near a pump on Broad Street and communicated that finding using a map-based graphic. That led to locking of the pump and the reduction in cases of cholera in rapid course.

20th century[edit]

In 1934, Amy Ashwood Garvey and Sam Manning opened the Florence Mills Social Club,[2] a jazz club which became a gathering spot for supporters of Pan-Africanism,[3] at number 50.

1958 saw the first boutique, His Clothes, opened in Carnaby Street by John Stephen (after his shop in Beak Street burned down)[4] and was soon followed by I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, Kleptomania, Mates, Ravel, and others.

By the 1960s, Carnaby Street proved popular for followers of both the Mod and hippie styles. Many independent fashion boutiques, and designers such as Mary Quant, Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin,[5] Lord John, Merc, Take Six, and Irvine Sellars were located in Carnaby Street as well as various underground music bars such as the Roaring Twenties in the surrounding streets. With bands such as Small Faces, The Who, and Rolling Stones appearing in the area to work (with the legendary Marquee Club located round the corner in Wardour Street), shop, and socialise, it became one of the coolest destinations associated with the Swinging London of the 1960s.

The Carnaby Street contingent of Swinging London stormed into North American and international awareness with the 15 April 1966 publication of Time magazine's cover[6] and article that extolled this street's role:

In October 1973, the Greater London Council pedestrianised Carnaby Street. Vehicular access is restricted between 11 am and 8 pm. A comparison of before and after number of pedestrians entering the pedestrianised area indicated a 30% increase in pedestrian flows into Carnaby Street as a result of the pedestrianisation. A campaign commenced early in 2010 to call for a similar exercise to be undertaken in the adjacent area of Soho.[8]

There are two Westminster City Council green plaques on Carnaby Street: the first can be found at 1 Carnaby Street and is dedicated to fashion entrepreneur John Stephen, who was responsible for beginning the Mod fashion revolution here. The second plaque, located at 52/55 Carnaby Street, is dedicated to the Mod pop group The Small Faces and their manager Don Arden.

Cultural impact[edit]

In 1966, Harry Fox and Henry Moss together opened the doors of Lady Jane, the first ladies' fashion boutique in the street, to the world. They soon parted company and Harry Fox went on to add Lady Jane Again, Lady Jane's Birdcage, a souvenir shop and a men's wear shop, Sir Harry, to his empire.

Carnaby Street was an already well-enough established phenomenon to be satirized by The Kinks in their early 1966 hit, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," which contains the line "Everywhere the Carnabetian Army marches on, each one a dedicated follower of fashion".

Carnaby Street in 2006.

It was further skewered in the 1967 film Smashing Time. One of the songs, entitled 'Carnaby Street', features the lyric: You'll pay for the gear on display to appear on the scene/ It's no good being mean/ They'll have your every bean.

Street sign in Carnaby Street, in the City of Westminster.

In 1969, Peggy March recorded an album called In der Carnaby Street, with a hit song of the same name.

There is a song by The Jam called "Carnaby Street", written by bassist Bruce Foxton. It was the B-side of single "All Around The World", released in the UK on 8 July 1977, reaching a chart position of number 13. It never appeared on any studio album, but can be found on the collected works of The Jam boxset Direction Reaction Creation.

Carnaby Street The Musical opened in 2013. The show is set in the 1960s.[9]


  1. ^ Benjamin Disraeli (1845) Sybil, chapter 1
  2. ^ Garvey, Amy Ashwood (1897-1969),
  3. ^ Black History in Westminster, City of Westminster
  4. ^ "Carnaby Street". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  5. ^ Childs, Peter (1999). Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture. p. 180. 
  6. ^ "London: The Swinging City". Time. 1966-04-15. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  7. ^ "You Can Walk across It on the Grass". Time. 1966-04-15. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  8. ^ Mark Stanley. "". 
  9. ^ "Welcome to Carnaby Street The Musical". 

External links[edit]