Charing Cross Road

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For the 1935 film, see Charing Cross Road (film).
Charing Cross Road, London, looking north from its junction with Cranbourn Street

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).

History[edit]

What is now Charing Cross road was originally two narrow streets in the West End, Crown Street and Castle Street. Following the development of Regent Street in the mid-18th century, there was an increase in traffic between Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross towards Tottenham Court Road and Bloomsbury, and the need for an improved road became obvious. Charing Cross Road was developed, in conjunction with Shaftesbury Avenue, by the Metropolitan Board of Works under an 1877 Act of Parliament.[1] The total cost of building 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.[2] The road required some of the worst slums in London to be demolished, which delayed progress in construction while they were rehoused.[1]

Bookshops[edit]

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, reputedly 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 Foyles bookshop on the west side of Charing Cross Road. (January 2006)

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 bookshop on the street, Marks & Co., was the inspiration for the book 84 Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a 1987 film starring 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 bookshop 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 Legacy", remains on the stone pilaster facing Charing Cross Road.

Features[edit]

The music venue the Astoria was located here, as is one of the sites of St Martin's Arts College, opening in 1939.[1] To the northeast of Charing Cross Road are the music shops on Denmark Street (known as Britain's Tin Pan Alley).[3]

A number of theatres are on or near Charing Cross Road, such as the Phoenix Theatre (which has its entrance on the adjoining Phoenix Street), the Garrick Theatre and Wyndham's Theatre.[1]

Beneath the grille in the traffic island between Charing Cross Road's junction with Old Compton Street, 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.

On the east side of the road's southern end, at the joining of St Martins Lane, is a statue of Edith Cavell. Towards the north end is the Phoenix Garden – an environmental garden run by local residents.

In the Harry Potter books, the Leaky Cauldron pub is located on Charing Cross Road.[4]

References[edit]

Citations
Sources
  1. ^ a b c d Weinreb et al. 2008, p. 149.
  2. ^ Bradley, Simon; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2003). The Buildings of England. 6: Westminster. p. 401. ISBN 0-300-09595-3. 
  3. ^ Weinreb et al. 2008, p. 134.
  4. ^ The location of The Leaky Cauldron is implied in the earlier books but stated explicitly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Chapter 26, page 423 Bloomsbury Edition, states "...He opened his eyes on Charing Cross Road. Muggles bustled past wearing the hangdog expressions of early morning, quite unconscious of the little inn's existence."

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′42″N 0°07′39″W / 51.51167°N 0.12750°W / 51.51167; -0.12750