Dave the Taxi Driver's


Guide to London

BBC Tower, Fitzrovia, London

Pollock's Toy Museum, Fitzrovia, London

Fitzrovia, London

Pink Floyd

Fitzrovia W1

Despite the fact that Fitzrovia is located in the West End, quite a proportion of it remains aloof from the hive of activity which is on its doorstep. Somewhat like Marylebone towards Euston Road to the north, with many mansion blocks, down towards Oxford Street it is quite different.

L'Etoile Restaurant, Fitzrovia, LondonThis is where the culture of Soho spills over into Charlotte Street/Rathbone Place and the surrounding streets. Here are dozens of new century restaurants with world cuisine and excellent long established restaurants such as L’Etoile, Charlotte Street and the Gaylord in Mortimer Street. As in Soho, there are also many international media companies, Saatchi and Saatchi in Charlotte Street and in Newman Street, the French Television Company, France 2, to name but two. I am pointing out the presence here of France 2, because I have had the good fortune on several occasions to contribute to their programmes by transporting their staff on filming work. My knowledge and expertise was once sought by them concerning the impact that the adoption of the Euro might have in the UK. My TV appearance lasted almost 40 seconds.

100 Club, Fitzrovia, LondonHow can I go any further without mentioning an icon of musical heritage? On the Fitzrovia side of Oxford Street is the amazing 100 Club. One of the best music venues in the world and still going strong. The 100 Club has had live music on the same premises since 1942. Originally a restaurant called Mack's, it began as a jazz club. In the sixties new owners brought in American blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Little Brother Montgomery, Cousin Joe Pleasant, Albert King, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Span, Jimmy Rushing, Louisiana Red, Bo Diddley, Freddie King and Eddie Taylor. This led to shows by the British blues groups who were big fans of the American blues performers. Steam Packet with Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Alexis Korner, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Animals. Then other groups who were also fans of American blues, R&B and Rock and Roll began to play here like The Who, The Kinks, The Pretty Things and The Spencer Davis Group. In September 1976 the 100 Club held the first ever Punk festival with the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators and Subway Sect, an event that introduced Punk to London and later the world. Later the club did the same with reggae, African music, and just about every fad and phase that rock and roll has metamorphised into. It is one of the most important musical venues in the world.

The MoveAt 31 Tottenham Court Road, in the basement, was the UFO club, where many of the most important sixties bands began, or continued their road to fame, such as Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, The Move(photo), Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Soft Machine. In fact Pink Floyd were for all intents and purposes the house band, playing every Friday night from 1966 when the club opened, into 1967 when their popularity forced (enabled) them to move on to larger venues. They were replaced by the Soft Machine. The club did not last beyond June of 1967 when they moved to The Roundhouse because the club was too small for the audience their bands were attracting. Unfortunately the high rent of their new venue forced the owners out of business. But at the time the UFO club was revolutionary, with Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd's shows being to London what the Grateful Dead and the Acid tests were to San Francisco. Psychedelic, mind expanding shows of sound and light that changed the world.

One interesting note about Pink Floyd. The name is a juxtaposition of the names of two Piedmont blues musicians from the first half of the 20th century; Pink Anderson from Spartanburg, South Carolina and Floyd Council from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Fitzrovia has many great traditional English pubs, clubs and bars and maybe, as you would expect, just a bit of sex-shop diversion.

BBC, LondonWithin the boundaries of Fitzrovia there is the art deco edifice of the BBC in Portland Place; the giant British Telecom Tower(1964); Fitzroy Square (1790-1830)was developed by Charles Fitzroy, the grandson of one of the illegitimate children of Charles II and Barbara Villiers, Henry Fitzroy. George Bernard Shaw lived at number 29. The delightful Pollock’s Toy Museum is in Scala Street with their fascinating Theatrical Print Shop around the corner in Whitfield Street. The famous French’s Theatre Bookshop is at 52 Fitzroy Street. No 8 Fitzroy Street was where the artist James Whistler had a studio at the end of the nineteenth century.

BBC Tower, Fitzrovia, LondonFitzrovia was where the wholesale ‘Rag Trade’ grew into what is now known as the Fashion Industry. The area is not associated a great deal with tourism. Having said that, there are quite a few major hotels which are only a few minutes walk away from the busy shopping and nightlife. The Berners is only yards away. You can sneak into Soho and back again without anyone noticing. If you feel you are getting lost, just look up and you will probably see the enormous beacon of the BT Tower which will help to guide you back to your hotel.

George Orwell, Fitzrovia, LondonIn case you are thinking otherwise, Fitzrovia was not named after Fitzroy Square. It was the intellectuals who, in the years between World War I and World War II, used to congregate in the Fitzroy Arms (Charlotte St./Windmill St) and who chose to name the area after the pub. Such people as George Orwell(photo) and Augustus John. I believe it was brought to the public’s notice by William Hickey (Tom Driberg MP) when writing in the Daily Express.

As I said in the Marylebone introduction, Fitzrovia has gradually crept westwards to Regent Street/Portland Place. The area was formerly known as Marylebone, then East Marylebone, a title which is still probably held onto by The City of Westminster, although probably only up to Great Portland Street. Hi -tech Tottenham Court Road is the eastern boundary, with Marylebone Road/Euston Road to the north. I consider it to be still becoming the area of Fitzrovia. I am still being asked, “Where is Fitzrovia?” Or if I mention Fitzrovia, the reply might be, “Where? Where’s that?”

Fitzrovia, LondonThere has been an attempt by certain estate agents to rename Fitzrovia, which is north of Soho, as Noho, reminiscent of course of the ‘ancient’ area of New York, which is a contradiction in itself. Heaven forbid! We cannot have such people as estate agents flippantly influencing such an historical and cultural quarter of London. Their interest is surely no more than an attempt to create a so called ‘cool city-centre niche’ born of ‘agentese speak’ for prospective buyers and even more unlikely, to put a little smile on their faces. Maybe New Yorkers who long for the familiarity they have left behind.

You will notice that Tony also mentions ‘Noho’. It could have been edited out but I think it needs to be mentioned at least twice. I think it is important that our opposition to this despicable attempt at renaming Fitzrovia is emphasised. It only made its way into the Ordnance Survey Map in 1994. They are utterly ignoring the fact that Fitzrovia has acquired its identity from intellectual thought, even though it might have been induced during an alcoholic ecstasy in the watering holes within its streets ( see guest writer Tony’s Pub Tour below).

I thought I would exercise a more luxurious approach in this section and devote a considerable space to the very popular English pastime known as the Pub Crawl or ‘doing the pubs’ as it is usually referred to in Soho.

I would not want to encourage excessive drinking or alcohol abuse, but the pubs of Fitzrovia are excellent establishments in which to spend a couple of hours. If wives want to shop ’til they drop in Oxford Street, here is a place where the men can escape for a while, or maybe vice versa. The pubs are situated close together so it is easy to do the tour without exhausting yourself.

Fitzrovia, TonyThis mystery drinker is the celebrated, nay, legendary journalist Tony Dennis. Tony is living testament to the oxymoron ‘sober journalist’. In this photo Tony is frequenting the Wheatsheaf in Ewell, Surrey. Having worked in Soho for many years, Tony, like his forbears, is also familiar with frequenting the many pubs east of Regent Street, in Soho and Fitzrovia. I am sure you will agree that it is fitting he maintains these literary links with Fitzrovia’s past, and he does so most conscientiously on a regular basis.

Here are the seats in The Fitzroy Arms, on which you might see Tony, possibly on a Monday. He may also be in any one of the pubs mentioned below. Sorry, there is no prize for you if you happen to recognise him from the above photo. But if you meet him, why not buy him a drink?

Here is Tony's Tour of the Pubs of Fitzrovia .
There are more to come as he says.

Fitzroy Tavern, LondonEnter Fitzrovia from Tottenham Court Road underground station. Within a few yards on the north side of Oxford Street (the Fitzrovia boundary), you'll encounter the Tottenham which is the only pub on Oxford Street itself. Walk along Oxford Street – past Hanway Street - where all the best late nite bars reside – and you'll reach Rathbone Place. A few quick steps will bring you to the Black Horse which is painted in every other colour save black. Now walk further up Rathbone Place and you'll reach the Wheatsheaf – once a prime comedy venue like the Black Horse. Exit the Wheatsheaf and to your right in Gresse Street you'll see the Bricklayers Arms which gets crowded very swiftly. So carry on up Rathbone Place until you hit the Marquis of Granby which is in the middle of Rathbone Place and Charlotte Street. Go left up Rathbone Street and you'll walk past a little pub which prides itself on serving pies called the Newman Arms. Past that you hit the Duke of York which is a real locals' pub. Forced right you then reach Charlotte Street and almost opposite is the Fitzroy Tavern. The name Fitzrovia is taken from the writers who used to frequent this public house. The area isn't named after Fitzroy Square nor is it called Noho – even though estate agents try to introduce this name since it is the logical extension to Soho – being north of Soho Square.

Northumberland Arms, Fitzrovia, LondonDrag yourself out of the Fitzroy Tavern and further up Charlotte Street you'll encounter the Northumberland Arms. As there's another Northumberland Arms in Fitzrovia, this one is nicknamed the Board Room after the important meetings that take place inside this establishment. Now it is time to go west young man! Head off down Goodge Street towards Mortimer Street. On the north side you'll see a fine Young’s pub, the One Tun. Across the road was the Cambridge but that's been turned into a trendy bar of late called Ping Pong. If you carry straight on you'll hit another continental style bar, Mortimer's. Should you really want to pose, turn left down Berners Street and go into the bar of Sanderson's Hotel. The hotel is named after the wallpaper company which previously occupied the premises.

So the obvious route is not to carry straight on into Mortimer Street but to turn north up Cleveland Street. Within a few minutes you'll encounter the King and Queen, another great drinkers' pub.

But you've gone too far. Retrace your steps back down Cleveland Street and hare off up Riding House Street. After a little while you should hit the Green Man. Further on, don't miss out the King's Arms which is on the corner of Riding House Street and Great Titchfield Street. Now head off (right) up Great Titchfield Street until you hit the Rose and Crown on the corner.

Now it's time to head back so head south down Grt Titchfield Street until you hit Mortimer Street again. Now turn right and you should be able to see the George (and Dragon) just up ahead on the corner of Great Portland Street. The George is a favourite but if your funds are low, the Cock – a Sam Smith pub, is further down Great Portland Street. By this time you should be absolutely smashed. Luckily Oxford Circus tube station is nearby. Just carry on down Great Portland Street until you hit Oxford Street and then turn right. You have reached the furthest west part of Fitzrovia by this stage. Incidentally, Great Portland Street and Warren Street tube stations were also a stiff walk away which could help you to sober up a bit.

Next time we'll switch to an entirely different starting point and routes to seek out even more of the numerous pubs in Fitzrovia. Maybe next time, we could discover the Blue Posts and the Champion which sadly had to be left out this time.

Thank you Tony!

As you would expect, being so close to Soho, which was itself the centre of bohemian life for so long, Fitzrovia has hosted, has witnessed the excesses of those of an artistic nature, and it has been their home. Those who have left their imprint on literary history, have stimulated intellectual thought, have left a colourful history of their living and who are now long gone. Those, who in their passing, created its soul.

How times have changed! Quite a few years ago some flower- filled hanging baskets were hung from the lamp posts in Great Titchfield Street. The City of Westminster found it necessary to install metal notices underneath each basket to explain why it was hanging there, the explanation being, ‘to give decoration and colour to the streets of East Marylebone’, or words to that effect.

Would you have thought otherwise? Why else would they be there? This is indicative of the patronising disrespect to our intelligence that prevails. What would have been the response of Dylan Thomas, had he still been alive and seen the the notices? Probably quite verbal I would think. What price the return of Bohemia? At the very least I would expect the City of Westminster not to waste our time and our money stating the obvious.

Aleister CrowleyHow ironic it is, that had George Orwell been walking the streets of London today, he would have his every move monitored by the thousands of cameras that have been installed just about everywhere. Had they only thought to do this centuries earlier we would have had endless videos featuring such luminaries as Dylan Thomas, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Irish Poet Patrick Kavanagh, writer/actor Julian Maclaren -Ross, writer Virginia Woolf, father of communism Karl Marx, painter Ford Madox Brown, artist and critic Roger Fry, politician and visionary Aneurin Bevan , Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw and artist/raconteur/mistress Nina Hamnett; plus other visitors such as flamboyant homosexual rights campaigner Quentin Crisp and the ‘Beast Himself’, magician, Aleister Crowley as they shopped, walked their pets or stopped on the street to chat with each other. Whatever purposes these cameras have I can only guess, but one hopes that it is so future generations can see what life was like for us. But I suppose this is unlikely.

Tube:- Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street, Euston (National Rail), Euston Square, Warren Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus.

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