|Part of||A4, A4201|
|Namesake||George, Prince Regent of the United Kingdom|
|Maintained by||Transport for London|
|Length||0.8 mi (1.3 km)|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Nearest tube station|
Regent Street is a major shopping street in the West End of London. It is named after George, the Prince Regent (later George IV) and was built under the direction of the architect John Nash. The street runs from Waterloo Place in St James's at the southern end, through Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, to All Souls Church. From there Langham Place and Portland Place continue the route to Regent's Park.
The street was completed in 1825 and was an early example of town planning in England, replacing a number of earlier roads including Swallow Street. Nash's street layout has survived, although all the original buildings except All Souls Church have been replaced following reconstruction in the late 19th century. The street is known for its flagship retail stores, including Liberty, Hamleys, Jaeger and the Apple Store. The Royal Polytechnic Institution, now the University of Westminster, has been based on Regent Street since 1838.
Regent Street is approximately 0.8 miles (1.3 km) long and begins at a junction with Charles II Street as a continuation of Waterloo Place. It runs north to Piccadilly Circus, where it turns left before curving round the Quadrant to head north again, meeting Oxford Street at Oxford Circus. It ends at a junction with Cavendish Place and Mortimer Street near the BBC Broadcasting House, with the road ahead being Langham Place, followed by Portland Place.
The southern section of the road is one-way northbound and part of the A4, a major road through West London. From Piccadilly Circus northwards, it is numbered A4201, though in common with roads inside the London congestion charging zone, the number does not appear on signs.
Nearby tube stations are Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus; the lattermost being one of the busiest underground stations in London, and is where three main lines (Central, Bakerloo and Victoria) meet. Numerous bus routes, such as 6, 12, and 13, run along Regent Street.
Regent Street was one of the first planned developments of London. The desire to impose order on the city's medieval street pattern dates back to the aftermath of the Great Fire of London (1666) when Sir Christopher Wren and John Evelyn drew plans for rebuilding the city on the classical formal model, but progress was slow and houses were rebuilt on the old street network anyway.
In 1766, John Gwynn complained in his work London and Westminster Improved that there was a lack of planning throughout the West End and that it would be useful to construct a thoroughfare linking Marylebone Park (now Regent's Park) with the Prince Regent's Carlton House. John Fordyce was appointed as Surveyor-General to the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1793 and concluded that there should be a suitable road in place by 1811, when the lease for Marylebone Park ran out and ownership reverted to the Crown. It was hoped the road could link Pall Mall and the Haymarket, of which has since declined in quality. A further problem was increased congestion around Charing Cross, which would benefit from road improvements.
The street was designed by John Nash, who had been appointed to the Office of Woods and Forests in 1806 and previously served as an adviser to the Prince Regent. He put forward his own plans for the street in 1810 following the death of Fordyce, envisioning broad, architecturally distinguished thoroughfares and public spaces.
Nash originally wanted to construct a straight boulevard in the same style seen in French cities, but this was not possible because of issues with land ownership. The final design resulted in the road being situated further west than previous plans, and Nash believed the road would run down a de facto line separating the upper classes and nobility in Mayfair with the working class in Soho. The northern section involved demolishing most of the existing Swallow Street, which had become run down and was an ideal candidate for regeneration. The road was designed to curve east between Oxford Street and Piccadilly so that it did not meet St James's Square, and the circuses allowed visual continuity down the street. The central section, known as the Quadrant, was designed for "shops appropriated to articles of fashion and taste," and was Nash's centrepiece design of the entire street. It was built with a colonnade made out of cast-iron columns, allowing commuters to walk along the street without having to face bad weather. The various buildings along the Quadrant had different facades, which was a deliberate choice by Nash to break away from the uniform design of the previous century, as well as a pragmatic means of using what building materials were available and what clients wanted. The road was planned to end outside Carlton House in Pall Mall, the residence of the Prince of Wales. Nash insisted that businesses on the new street would be of high-quality, rivalling that of the nearby Bond Street; common trades such as butchers or greengrocers were not allowed.
The design was adopted by an Act of Parliament in 1813, which permitted the commissioners to borrow £600,000 for building and construction. The street was intended to have commercial purposes and it was expected that a majority of the income would come from private capital. Nash took responsibility for design and valuation of all properties. Construction of the road resulted in demolishing numerous properties, disrupting trade and polluting the air with dust. Existing tenants had first offer to purchase leases on the new properties. The Treasury supported the proposal because, in the aftermath of the lengthy Napoleonic Wars, there was an urgent need for the government to create jobs. Government expenditure was low because the design relied heavily upon private developers, such as Nash himself. The buildings were to be let on 99-year leases, as was common at the time, and income could be recouped in the form of ground rent.
Although Nash was responsible for the street's general development, some individual buildings were designed by Charles Robert Cockerell and Sir John Soane, amongst others. By 1819, the Crown were receiving regular rent and the street was becoming established. At first, it was called New Street and became a dividing line between Soho, which had declined socially and economically, and the fashionable squares and streets of Mayfair to the west. Carlton House did not last long following completion of the works and was demolished in 1829, to be replaced by Carlton House Terrace, also designed by Nash.
Regent Street became the first shopping area in Britain to support late night opening in 1850, when shopkeepers agreed to keep stores open until 7pm.
During the 19th century, Regent Street became established as the "centre of fashion." Shops expanded into multiple properties, selling imported and exotic products to appeal to niche consumers. By the end of the century, fashions had changed and the original buildings were small and old fashioned, restricting trade. The colonnade constructed by Nash was demolished in the mid-19th century for fear it might attract "doubtful characters." Other buildings were not up to modern building standards; some had been extended and were structurally suspect. As the 99-year leases came to an end, Regent Street was redeveloped between 1895 and 1927 under the control of the Office of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues (now known as the Crown Estate).
The modern Regent Street is the result of this redevelopment. No original structures survive except south of Oxford Circus for some Nash-designed sewers. The current design is an example of the Beaux Arts approach to urban design: an assembly of separate buildings on a grand scale, designed to harmonise and produce an impressive overall effect. Strict rules governed the reconstruction. Each block had to be designed with a continuous unifying street façade and finished in Portland stone. The first redevelopment was Regent House, just south of Oxford Circus. The stylistic tone for the rebuilding was set by Sir Reginald Blomfield's Quadrant.
The architect Norman Shaw, then aged 73, was brought in to draw up proposals for the Circus and the Quadrant after early plans were felt to be unsatisfactory. His scheme was approved in principle but subject to indecision and dispute, both on property acquisition and retailers' demand for bigger display windows. Shaw's design for the Piccadilly Hotel was completed in 1908 with modifications, while the Quadrant was rebuilt by Blomfield, adapting Shaw's designs. The work started in 1923 and was completed by 1928. Significantly, no accommodation was built above any of the retail properties, contributing to the demise of the West End as a place of residence. A limited number of architects were responsible for the redesigned street, including Sir John James Burnet, Arthur Joseph Davis and Henry Tanner.
Work was delayed by World War I and it was not until 1927 that its completion was celebrated by King George V and Queen Mary driving in state along its length. The only remaining Nash building is All Souls Church and all the buildings on the street are at least Grade II listed. All the properties are in the Regent Street Conservation Area.
Crown Estate redevelopment
By the 1970s, Regent Street had started to decline because of under-investment and competition from neighbouring areas such as Oxford Street or shopping centres away from Central London. In 2002, the Crown Estate, which owns most of Regent Street on behalf of the Queen, started a major redevelopment programme. In 2013 the Estate sold a quarter of the 270,000-square-foot (25,000 m2) Regent Street Quadrant 3 building to the Norwegian Oil Fund, while later that year, Hackett London bought the lease for the Ferrari store on Regent Street for £4m. Smaller shops have been replaced by larger units; the street is now the flagship location of several major brands, including Apple and Banana Republic.
The largest part of the plan was the reconstruction of the Quadrant close to Piccadilly Circus, which was completed in 2011. It offers 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) of office space spanning over seven floors. Two Art Deco-designed restaurants have also been restored, and the development includes a small number of apartments. The Crown Estate moved its own headquarters from Carlton House Terrace to Regent Street in 2006.
The department store Dickins and Jones was established at No. 54 Oxford Street as Dickins and Smith before moving to Nos. 232–234 Regent Street in 1835. It was renamed to Dickins and Jones in the 1890s after John Pritchard Jones became a business partner, and by the turn of the 20th century employed over 200 people. It became part of the Harrods group in 1914, and expanded to cover Nos. 224–244 in 1922, in a new building designed by Sir Henry Tanner. In 1959, House of Fraser took over the store by buying the Harrods group. In 2005, House of Fraser announced that the store would close the following year, after it had been making a loss for several years and not kept up with more fashion-conscious department stores elsewhere. The building has been redeveloped with small shop units on the lower floors and flats and offices above.
The Liberty department store is based at Nos. 210–220. It was founded by entrepreneur Arthur Lasenby Liberty, who had been inspired by the 1862 International Exhibition and wanted to open an oriental warehouse. He opened his first shop, East India House in 1875 at No. 218a, selling silk garments and various oriental goods. The shop expanded into other properties on Regent Street in the 1880s, separated by a jeweller's shop which was bridged by a double staircase called the "Camel's Back." Liberty later took over all of Nos. 140–150 Regent Street. In 1925, this complex was replaced by two new buildings, and a mock tudor building (built by architects Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall, constructed from the timbers of two ships, the HMS Impregnable, and the HMS Hindustan) on neighbouring Great Marlborough Street connected by a footbridge over Kingly Street, which separates the properties.
The toy store Hamleys is at No. 188 Regent Street, just south of Oxford Circus. It was founded as Noah's Ark at No. 231 High Holborn in 1760. An additional branch opened at Nos. 64–66 Regent Street in 1881, while the original High Holborn building burned down in 1901, moving to Nos. 86–87. The store was frequently the first to market the latest games and toys, and became a strong seller of table tennis equipment in the late 19th century, allowing the sport to become popular. The business moved to Nos. 200–202, and moved to the current address in 1981. It claims to be the largest toy shop in the world.
The main London branch of the clothing store Jaeger is at Nos. 200–206 Regent Street. It was founded in 1884 by Lewis Tomalin, who was inspired by naturalist Gustav Jäger's pioneering use of anti-animal fibre-based clothing. The first shop, on Fore Street, had "Doctor Jaeger's Sanitary Woollen System" inscribed above the door. Oscar Wilde was a regular visitor to the shop. Henry Morton Stanley is known to have worn Jaeger clothing during his search for Dr. David Livingstone in Africa, as is Robert Falcon Scott on his fated trip to the South Pole. The company moved to Regent Street in 1935.
The Apple retail store opened on Regent Street on 20 November 2004. At the time, this was the first such store in Europe, with the others being in the United States and Japan. It was the largest Apple store worldwide until the opening of an even larger store in Covent Garden in August 2010.
Austin Reed's flagship store was at Nos. 103–113 Regent Street for more than 85 years. It had an atrium at its centre, housing glass lifts allowing viewing across all floors. The lower ground floor sold womenswear and also housed Austin's, the refurbished Art Deco Barber Shop. In May 2011, the British fashion retailer Superdry announced it would move into the building, paying £12m for the lease. In return, Austin Reed moved to a former Aquascutum shop on the other side of the road. In 2016, Austin Reed filed for administration, ending over 100 years' presence on Regent Street.
Immediately north of Regent Street is the BBC's headquarters, Broadcasting House, whose front entrance is in Langham Place. Several national radio stations are broadcast from this building. The site had formerly been a building on the gardens of Foley House designed by James Wyatt and called Wyatt's House. It was demolished in 1928 (with much of the fixtures ending up in the Victoria and Albert Museum) to construct Broadcasting House. Construction was challenging because the building had to be visually similar to other properties on Regent Street, yet also contain over twenty soundproofed studios. The exterior is built of Portland stone and above the front entrance is a sculpture by Eric Gill.
Broadcasting House was first used by the BBC on 2 May 1932, and total construction costs were £350,000. It was too small for all services, and St George's Hall, next to All Souls, was used for variety broadcasts until it was demolished during the Blitz. On 15 October 1940, the building took a direct hit, killing seven people, and later that year a landmine exploded on Portland Place, causing widespread fires in Broadcasting House. Despite the damage, it survived the war and became one of the best known buildings associated with radio broadcasting. Subsequently, the BBC expanded with additional studios at Maida Vale, followed by the former headquarters of BBC Television, BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane. In the 2000s, Broadcasting House was expanded to include a new wing and modernise the site, replacing earlier extensions. It was designed by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. Originally named the Egton Wing, it was renamed to the John Peel Wing in 2012, in memory of the radio broadcaster.
The Paris Theatre was located in a converted cinema in Lower Regent Street, near other BBC buildings. Several rock groups performed live concerts here, including The Beatles, Queen and Pink Floyd, which were simultaneously recorded for broadcast. The BBC stopped using the theatre in 1995.
University of Westminster
The University of Westminster's main campus at No. 309 Regent Street was founded in 1838 under George Cayley and rebuilt under Quintin Hogg in 1911. It is one of the oldest educational institutions in Central London. Historically, the University was once also titled as the Royal Polytechnic Institution (after a royal charter had been formally received in August 1839 and Prince Albert became a patron to the institution). It has also been called "The Polytechnic at Regent Street" and the Polytechnic of Central London (PCL). The University houses the Regent Street Cinema which acted as a platform for major scientists, artists and authors such as Charles Dickens, John Henry Pepper, and The Lumière Brothers (Auguste and Louis Lumière) where public and private screenings of Cinématographe were shown to an audience. The cinema was restored and reopened to the public in May 2015.
All Souls Church is at the top of Regent Street next to Broadcasting House. It was built in 1823 out of Bath stone and consecrated in 1824, and is the only surviving building in Regent Street that was designed by John Nash.
The Café Royal, located at 68 Regent Street in the Quadrant, was opened in 1865 by Daniel Nicols and became an institution of London high society. In 1895 Oscar Wilde argued with Frank Harris in the café about his proposal to sue the Marquess of Queensberry for libel over Wilde's alleged homosexuality. Wilde went ahead with the trial, which ultimately led to his own arrest and imprisonment. The present building, by Sir Reginald Blomfield, dates from 1928 and is Grade II listed. It was closed in 2008 and the building which houses the café was bought by a subsidiary of Alrov Group, as a part of Crown Estate's plans to redevelop this part of Regent Street. It is the oldest shop on Regent Street.
Regent Street is home to several events throughout the year. The Regent Street Festival happens annually, and during this time, the street is closed to traffic. In September, there is a series of fashion-related events, dubbed as Fashion and Design Month (FDM), which has been running since 2015. In an interview with David Shaw, the head of the Regent Street Portfolio, he said that for FDM 2016, they worked with many "talented individuals across a variety of events, combining creative talent with our established stores."
There have been Christmas lights on Regent Street in various forms since 1882. The current regular displays date from 1948, when the Regent Street Association decorated the street with trees. Since 1954, the Regent Street Association have arranged annual Christmas lights. There is a different display every year and the switching on ceremony occurs during November.
On 6 July 2004, half a million people crowded into Regent Street and the surrounding streets to watch a parade of Formula One cars. In 2016, the sport's chief manager, Bernie Ecclestone, speculated that a London Grand Prix may potentially happen in the future, including Regent Street as a part of the circuit.
The character Lord Frederick Verisopht in Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby lived in an apartment in Regent Street. This reflected the nature of the street in the mid-19th century when it was still a fashionable residence for the upper class.
Regent Street is a location on the British version of Monopoly as a group of three green squares with Oxford Street and Bond Street. The three properties are grouped together as they are all known for their retail and commercial backgrounds.
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