Wardour Street

Last updated

Wardour Street, looking north from outside St Anne's Church Wardour Street, Soho - geograph.org.uk - 235090.jpg
Wardour Street, looking north from outside St Anne's Church

Wardour Street ( /ˈwɔːrdɔːr/ ) is a street in Soho, City of Westminster, London. It is a one-way street that runs north from Leicester Square, through Chinatown, across Shaftesbury Avenue to Oxford Street. Throughout the 20th century the street became a centre for the British film industry and popular music scene.



There has been a thoroughfare on the site of Wardour Street on maps and plans since they were first printed, the earliest being Elizabethan. In 1585, to settle a legal dispute, a plan of what is now the West End was prepared. The dispute was about a field roughly where Broadwick Street is today. The plan was very accurate and clearly gives the name Colmanhedge Lane to this major route across the fields from what is described as "The Waye from Vxbridge to London" (Oxford Street) to what is now Cockspur Street. The old plan shows that this lane follows the modern road almost exactly, including bends at Brewer Street and Old Compton Street.

The road is also a major thoroughfare on Faithorne and Newcourt's map surveyed between 1643 and 1647. Although they do not give it a name, it is shown to have about 24 houses, and additionally a large "Gaming House" roughly on the present-day northwest corner of Leicester Square. The map also shows a large windmill, about 50 yards to the west of what is now St Anne's Church, roughly on the current alignment of Great Windmill Street.

Changes of the street's name and extent since 1585 Wardour St Name Changes since 1585.png
Changes of the street's name and extent since 1585

The name Colmanhedge Lane did not last, and a 1682 map by Ogilby and Morgan shows the lane split into three parts. The northern part is shown as SO HO, the middle part Whitcomb Street and the remainder, from James Street south, is Hedge Lane. It is not clear from the map where the boundary between SO HO and Whitcombe Street is—probably somewhere between Compton Street and Gerrard Street. These three names are on the Morden and Lea map of 1682.

Wardour Street was renamed and building began in 1686, as shown by a plaque formerly on the house at the corner with Broadwick Street. Sir Edward Wardour owned land in the area, and Edward Street was what is now the stretch of Broadwick Street between Wardour Street and Berwick Street, as shown by Roque. Neither side of the street was fully built up by 1720. [1] John Rocque shows both roads very clearly on his large-scale map of 1746. From Oxford Street south to Meard Street is now Wardour Street; then south to Compton Street is Old Soho; then down to Coventry Street is Princes Street. For the length of Leicester Square it is Whicomb Street and finally Hedge Lane, which now starts at Panton Street rather than James Street.

By the end of the 18th century, Horwood, on a large map of 1799, uses the same names but not Old Soho and Hedge Lane. This leaves just Wardour, Princes and Whitcomb streets. The houses have individual numbers by then, and are shown in detail on Horwood's map.

The names are much the same on Greenwood's map of 1827, although the area at the southern end had been redeveloped. The road now ends at Pall Mall East, and the boundary between Wardour and Princes streets may have moved north a little.

By 1846, Cruchley's new plan of London shows change at the southern end. Wardour, Princes and Whitcomb streets stay the same; however, Whitcomb Street loses a few hundred yards at the southern end, and from James Street to Pall Mall is now Dorset Place.

In Victorian times, Princes Street is still shown on the 1871 Ordnance Survey map. Stanford's Map of Central London 1897, at 6 to a mile, has just two names, Wardour Street from Oxford Street to Coventry Street, and Whitcomb Street south from there. It has remained like this since, though the numbering of premises was rationalised around 1896.

In the late 19th century, Wardour Street was known for (sometimes slightly shoddy) furniture stores, antique shops, and dealers in artists' supplies. A complicated succession of members of the Wright family were in business in a variety of art and furniture-related fields between 1827 and 1919 at numbers 22 (the first and last), and also 23, 26, 134 and 144, with at least two businesses run by cousins in the latter part of the century. Wright was used for picture frames by the new National Gallery from at least 1856, when they made the large new frame for the Adoration of the Magi by Paolo Veronese that is still in place. [2] The phrase "Wardour Street English" denotes the use of near-obsolete words for effect, such as anent; this derives from the once great number of antique shops in the area. The Paris-born luthier Georges Chanot III had a shop and violin-making business at no. 157 for many years.

20th century

Film House at 142 Wardour Street, formerly the headquarters of the Associated-British Pathe film company. Film House 142 Wardour Street London Redvers.jpg
Film House at 142 Wardour Street, formerly the headquarters of the Associated-British Pathé film company.

During this period, it became a centre of the British film industry, with the big production and distribution companies having their headquarters in the street. By the end of the century most of the big film companies had moved elsewhere, leaving some smaller independent production houses and post-production companies still based in the area.

The Flamingo Club was situated at number 33-37 from 1957 until 1967. The Vortex Club at 203 Wardour Street is mentioned in the song by the Jam, "A-Bomb in Wardour Street". Based in the discothèque Crackers, in 1977 the club hosted early concerts by punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits and Adam and the Ants. Number 90 was the site of the Marquee Club from 1964 to 1988; Soho and Wardour Street are mentioned in the song "The London Boys" by David Bowie and The Marquee Club in the spoken introduction to Long John Baldry's "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll". From the late 1960s to the present day, 159 Wardour Street has been the home of the St Moritz nightclub. [3] In 1985, 90 Wardour Street was also the title of the first LP by New York-based garage-pop band Mod Fun. It is now home to a restaurant and bar called Floridita, above which is Soho Lofts, an exclusive block of flats. The Underworld song "Stagger" includes the lyric "I found you shopping in Europa on Wardour Street". A branch of the supermarket Europa was at number 178, which is now a branch of the Ryman stationers' chain. The Eric Gilder School of Music was at 195 Wardour Street (original building now demolished).

21st century

The former premises of Willy Clarkson on Wardour Street Willy Clarksons Wardour Street.jpg
The former premises of Willy Clarkson on Wardour Street

The street is home to over 30 restaurants and bars north of Shaftesbury Avenue. South of Shaftesbury Avenue there are many well-known Chinese restaurants, including the large Wong Kei at nos. 41–43. A London County Council blue plaque on Wong Kei's commemorates costume designer and wigmaker Willy Clarkson whose business was based in the building. [4]

The street crosses, or meets with, Lisle Street, Gerrard Street, Rupert Court, Dansey Place, Shaftesbury Avenue, Winette Street, Tisbury Court, Old Compton Street, Brewer Street, Bourchier Street, Peter Street, Tyler's Court, Flaxman Court, Broadwick Street, St Anne's Court, Sheraton Street, D'Arblay Street, Hollen Street, Noel Street and Oxford Street.

See also

Related Research Articles

Soho District in London, England

Soho is an area of the City of Westminster, part of the West End of London. Originally a fashionable district for the aristocracy, it has been one of the main entertainment districts in the capital since the 19th century.

West End of London Area of Central London, England

The West End of London is a district of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated.

Shaftesbury Human settlement in England

Shaftesbury is a town and civil parish in Dorset, England. It is situated on the A30 road, 20 miles (32 km) west of Salisbury, near to the border with Wiltshire. It is the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset, being built about 215 metres (705 ft) above sea level on a greensand hill on the edge of Cranborne Chase.

Piccadilly Circus road junction and public place in London, England, UK

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning "circle", is a round open space at a street junction.

Shaftesbury Avenue major street in the West End of London

Shaftesbury Avenue is a major street in the West End of London, named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. It runs north-easterly from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. From Piccadilly Circus to Cambridge Circus, it is in the City of Westminster, and from Cambridge Circus to New Oxford Street, it is in the London Borough of Camden.

Chinatown, London Human settlement in England

Chinatown is an ethnic enclave in the City of Westminster, London, bordering Soho to its north and west, Theatreland to the south and east. The enclave currently occupies the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses. The first Chinatown was located in Limehouse in the East End.

Old Compton Street street in the West End of London

Old Compton Street is a road that runs east–west through Soho in the West End of London.

Berwick Street Street in Soho, London

Berwick Street is a street in the Soho district of the City of Westminster. Berwick Street runs between Oxford Street to the north and Walker's Court at the south.

Marquee Club Former music club in London, England

The Marquee Club was a music venue first located at 165 Oxford Street in London, when it opened in 1958 with a range of jazz and skiffle acts. Its most famous period was from 1964 to 1988 at 90 Wardour Street in Soho, and it finally closed when at 105 Charing Cross Road in 1996, though the name has been revived unsuccessfully three times in the 21st century. It was always a small and relatively cheap club, located in the heart of the music industry in London's West End, and used to launch the careers of generations of rock acts.

Coventry Street London street, within the City of Westminster

Coventry Street is a short street in the West End of London, connecting Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. Part of the street is a section of the A4, a major road through London. It is named after the politician Henry Coventry, secretary of state to Charles II.

St Annes Church, Soho Church in London

Saint Anne's Church in the Soho section of London was consecrated on 21 March 1686 by Bishop Henry Compton as the parish church of the new civil and ecclesiastical parish of St Anne, created from part of the parish of St Martin in the Fields. The Church of England parish has been the Parish of St Anne with St Thomas and St Peter since 1945. The church and parish are part of the Deanery of Westminster within the Diocese of London in the Church of England. Parts of its churchyard around the tower and west end are now the public park of St Anne's Gardens, accessed from the Shaftesbury Avenue end of Wardour Street, whilst the church itself is accessed via a gate at the Shaftesbury Avenue end of Dean Street, as it does not front onto the street.

Tisbury, Wiltshire Human settlement in England

Tisbury is a large village and civil parish approximately 13 miles (21 km) west of Salisbury in the English county of Wiltshire. With a population at the 2011 census of 2,253 it is a centre for communities around the upper River Nadder and Vale of Wardour. The parish includes the hamlets of Upper Chicksgrove and Wardour.

Dean Street street in Soho

Dean Street is a street in Soho, central London, running from Oxford Street south to Shaftesbury Avenue.

Brewer Street street in Soho

Brewer Street is a street in the Soho area of central London, running west to east from Glasshouse Street to Wardour Street.

St Anne Within the Liberty of Westminster former civil parish in the Liberty of Westminster

St Anne Within the Liberty of Westminster, also known as St Anne Soho, was a civil parish in the metropolitan area of London, England. The creation of the parish accompanied the building of St Anne's Church, Soho to meet the demands of the growing population. The parish was formed in 1687 from part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields in the Liberty of Westminster and county of Middlesex. It included the eastern section of the contemporary districts of Soho to the north of Shaftesbury Avenue and Chinatown to the south of it. Initially controlled by a select vestry, the parish was governed by an open vestry of all inhabitants until 1855, when the vestry was superseded for most purposes by the Strand District Board of Works. In 1889 the parish became part of the County of London and in 1900 the local authority became Westminster City Council. The parish continued to have nominal existence until 1922.

20 Frith Street building in Soho, London

20 Frith Street is a building in the Soho district of London. It is located on the east side of Frith Street, close to the junction with Old Compton Street. The building which currently occupies the site of 20 Frith Street was built in 1858 by William Cooze to replace a house which dated from c1725, which itself may have replaced an even earlier building.

John Rocques Map of London, 1746 Outstanding 18th-century map of London

John Rocque's Map of London, 1746, more formally "A plan of the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark", surveyed by John Rocque and engraved by John Pine, is a map of Georgian London to a scale of 26 inches to a mile. The map consists of twenty-four sheets and is 3.84 by 2.01 metres in overall size. Taking nearly ten years to survey, engrave and publish, it has been described as "a magnificent example of cartography ... one of the greatest and most handsome plans of any city".

Walkers Court street in City of Westminster, United Kingdom

Walker's Court is a pedestrian street in the Soho district of the City of Westminster, London. The street dates from around the early 1700s and escaped modernisation in the late nineteenth century so that it retains its original narrow layout. In the twentieth century the small shops that traded from the street gradually closed and from the late 1950s the street became associated with Soho's sex trade. The Raymond Revuebar opened in 1958 and closed in 2004. There are now plans to redevelop the street.

George Frederick Cruchley English map-maker, engraver and publisher

George Frederick Cruchley (1797-1880) was an English map-maker, engraver and publisher based in London.

This is a list of the etymology of street names in the London district of Soho, in the City of Westminster. The following utilises the generally accepted boundaries of Soho viz. Oxford Street to the north, Charing Cross Road to the east, Shaftesbury Avenue to the south and Regent Street to the west.


  1. The early history of Piccadilly, Leicester square, Soho and their neighborhood: based on a plan drawn in 1585 and published by the London topographical society in 1925, pp. 118-120, google books; Encyclopedia of London, "Wardour Street"
  2. "British picture framemakers, 1610–1950 – W", National Portrait Gallery
  3. https://www.timeout.com/london/nightlife/st-moritz-club
  4. "CLARKSON, WILLY (1861–1934)". English Heritage. Retrieved 18 August 2012.

Coordinates: 51°30′51″N0°08′04″W / 51.51419°N 0.13456°W / 51.51419; -0.13456