Northumberland Avenue

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Sign at No. 1, Northumberland Avenue

Northumberland Avenue is a street in the City of Westminster in central London that runs from Trafalgar Square in the west to the Thames Embankment in the east. The road was built on the site of Northumberland House, the London home of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland between 1874 and 1876.

When built, the street was designed for luxury accommodation, including the seven-storey Grand Hotel. The Playhouse Theatre opened in 1882 and become a significant venue in London. From the 1930s onwards, hotels disappeared from Northumberland Avenue and were replaced by offices. The street has been commemorated in the Sherlock Holmes novels, and is a square on the British Monopoly board.


The street is around 0.2 miles (0.32 km) long. It runs from Trafalgar Square eastwards from Trafalgar Square towards the Thames Embankment. At the eastern end are the Whitehall Gardens and the Golden Jubilee Bridges over the River Thames. The road is classified A400.[1] The nearest bus route is London Bus Route 91 and the nearest tube stations are Charing Cross and Embankment.[2]

Several British government departments are located in buildings on Northumberland Avenue; the Ministry of Defence and the Air Ministry formerly occupied the triangular-shaped Metropole Hotel on the street. Other buildings include the Nigerian High Commission at No. 9[3] and a London School of Economics halls of residence (opposite The Sherlock Holmes pub).


Northumberland Avenue begins at Trafalgar Square.

In 1608–09, Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton built a house on the eastern portion of the former property of the Chapel and Hospital of St. Mary Rounceval, at Charing Cross. This was a considerable property consisting of a house and gardens, running down to the River Thames, and adjoining Scotland Yard to the west.[4] The estate was inherited by Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland when he married Howard's great-great niece, Lady Elizabeth in 1642, whereupon the property became known as Northumberland House.[5] The house suffered damage in the Wilkes' election riots of 1768, but the duke saved his property by the expedient of opening the nearby Ship Ale House, which drew off the rioters.[4]

In June 1874, the whole of this property at Charing Cross was purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works for the demolition of the house to form Northumberland Avenue, which would accommodate hotels.[4][6] Contemporary planning permissions forbade hotels to be taller than the width of the road they were on; consequently Northumberland Avenue was built with a wide carriageway.[6] Part of the parallel Northumberland Street was demolished in order to make way for the avenue's eastern end.[7] The street was open by 1876.[8]

The Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Avenue first opened in 1882. Alec Guinness first performed on stage at the theatre, and the Beatles recorded several sessions for the BBC here.[9]

Thomas Edison's British headquarters, Edison House, was situated on the road. Several prominent personalities of the late 19th century had their voices recorded there by phonograph, including Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and poet Robert Browning[10] Mary Helen Ferguson, the first English female audio typist, worked at Edison House and supervised all musical recordings.[11] In 1890, retired military trumpeter Martin Lanfried recorded at Edison House using a bugle he believed to have been sounded at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854.[12]

The Royal Commonwealth Society is at No. 18 Northumberland Avenue.[8] It was founded in 1868 as the Colonial Society to improve relationships with colonies in the British Empire including Canada and Australia, and moved to its current premises in 1885. The current name dates from 1958, reflecting the change from the Empire to the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth Club opened on the premises in 1998 and features the only suspended glass dining room in London.[13]

By the 1930s, accommodation on Park Lane and Piccadilly had become more popular. Hotels closed and were sold for other businesses; the seven floor Grand Hotel became a retail headquarters.[6] No. 8 is now an events venue for corporations including Marks & Spencer.[14] The venue is the first in Europe to install amBX lighting.[15]

Northumberland Avenue formed part of the marathon course of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The women's Olympic marathon took place on 5 August and the men's Olympic marathon on 12 August, with the Paralympics following on 9 September.[16][17]

Cultural references[edit]

Northumberland Avenue is referenced several times in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, where wealthy Oriental visitors stayed in hotels, including the Grand, the Metropole and the Victoria.[18]

The street is part of a group of three on the London Monopoly board, with Pall Mall and Whitehall.[19]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Northumberland Avenue". Google Maps. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "London Bus Route 91". Transport for London. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Nigeria High Commission". Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Northumberland House. Survey of London. 18: St Martin-in-the-Fields II: The Strand. 1937. pp. 10–20. Retrieved 14 February 2009. 
  5. ^ Gater, G H; Wheeler, E P, eds. (1937). "Northumberland House". Survey of London (London). 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand: 10–20. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Moore 2003, p. 53.
  7. ^ Gater, G H; Wheeler, E P, eds. (1937). "Northumberland Street". Survey of London (London). 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand: 21–26. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Weinreb et al 2008, p. 593.
  9. ^ Moore 2003, p. 54.
  10. ^ Jonnes 2009, p. 92.
  11. ^ John 2012, Footnote on pp. 36–37.
  12. ^ Dutton 2007, p. 307.
  13. ^ Weinreb et al 2008, p. 716.
  14. ^ Marlow, Ben (8 July 2015). "M&S cannot afford to party on this set of results". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  15. ^ Colston, Paul (15 March 2013). "8 Northumberland Avenue adds new lighting system to Victorian Ballroom". Conference News. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "marathon men results – Athletics – London 2012 Olympics". 
  17. ^ "marathon women results – Athletics – London 2012 Olympics". 
  18. ^ Wheeler 2011, p. 291.
  19. ^ Moore 2003, p. 45.


  • Dutton, Roy (2007). Forgotten Heroes: The Charge of the Light Brigade. Infodial. ISBN 978-0-955-65540-1. 
  • John, Juliet (2012). Dickens and Modernity. DS Brewer. ISBN 978-1-843-84326-9. 
  • Jonnes, Jill (2009). Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-101-05251-8. 
  • Moore, Tim (2003). Do Not Pass Go. Vintage. ISBN 978-0-099-43386-6. 
  • Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher; Keay, Julia; Keay, John (2008). The London Encyclopedia. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5. 
  • Wheeler, Thomas Bruce (2011). The London of Sherlock Holmes. Andrews. ISBN 978-1-780-92211-9. 

Coordinates: 51°30′24″N 0°07′27″W / 51.5068°N 0.1242°W / 51.5068; -0.1242