Words: Mark Riddaway
If only London’s landowners and bureaucrats could have found the necessary restraint to name each of the capital’s streets just once. Sadly, throughout the history of this great city, the restless urge to fiddle with street names and numbering systems has provided gainful employment for a large number of pen-pushers and caused no end of tension headaches in historians attempting to research old buildings.
New Cavendish Street is one of Marylebone’s longest streets, running east from the high street and cutting its way to the heart of Fitzrovia. It’s also one of the most confusing. At one stage, it was actually three different streets—but then the fiddling began.
When John Prince drew up his plan for the development of Marylebone in 1719, he envisaged the creation of a long cross street called, somewhat mundanely, Marylebone Street. Construction got underway in the second half of the century, and by the time Richard Horwood’s famous map of London was completed in 1799, the street had been built in three distinct sections: Great Marylebone Street, New Cavendish Street and Upper Marylebone Street. Incidentally, today’s Marylebone Street, which runs parallel to the high street, was known as Little Marylebone Street, but then that got fiddled with too.
A little shimmy
In 1904, Great Marylebone Street was incorporated into New Cavendish Street, and all the numbering was reordered. In 1937, Upper Marylebone Street joined the party, and the numbering did another little shimmy.
Like most of the area’s cross streets, New Cavendish Street lacks some of the grandeur and architectural coherence of the great north-south avenues. Instead, it offers up a smorgasbord of eras and architectural styles, from Georgian to late 20th century. Some of the Victorian shopfronts in particular are quite attractive—look out for the Arts & Crafts detailing around number 14-16.
Most of the street’s blockbuster buildings belong in spirit to the north-south streets: number 71, a Grade II* listed Adam brothers townhouse, is really part of Portland Place, while number 82, similarly striking, is pretty integral to Mansfield Street.
The only real exception is 61-63 New Cavendish Street, a large pair of houses by John Johnson, built between 1775 and 1777. Treated as a single composition, the building is seven bays wide and four stories high, with attractive Coade stone arched doorways—a real beauty.
Alfred Waterhouse (architect)
Victor Weisz (cartoonist)
61-63 New Cavendish Street—a pair of Grade II* listed townhouses from the 1770s, now occupied by Energy Institute and Asia House.