• Marylebone Lane

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Street stories

The history of the famously meandering Marylebone Lane

Words: Mark Riddaway

While most of Marylebone dresses rather formally, with grand streets laid out in a stiff grid, Marylebone Lane is the stubborn old man who turns up in grubby chords and comfortable shoes, far too hoary and set in his ways to care. While its neighbours are all about straight lines and right angles, this most ancient of highways is defined instead by its distinctive lazy wiggle. 

Marylebone Lane existed long before John Prince drew up his plan for the development of the Estate in 1719. Back when Marylebone was mainly fields, a muddy little lane followed the path of the River Tyburn on a meandering route down towards Oxford Street, and it remained largely untouched while the area’s first grand boulevards began to take shape.

The river was eventually confined in a brick culvert towards the end of the 18th century and then built over, but the street still undulates along that original route. Contrary to popular belief, the Tyburn doesn’t flow underneath the road itself, but under the buildings on the eastern side. Over the years, it has made its presence felt from time to time, flooding basements and generally causing something of a logistical nightmare.

Informal and intimate
The shape and scale of Marylebone Lane give it an informal and intimate feel, making it a haven for small retailers, and its relative lack of grandeur have made it more susceptible to change than some of the more aspic-preserved parts of the area. On Westminster council’s map of approximate building ages, where every era is marked with a different colour, Marylebone Lane looks like someone has emptied a packet of jelly beans, with Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, inter-war and post-war structures sitting side by side, seemingly at random.

This sense of evolution continues today. The Howard de Walden Estate has recently reconfigured and resurfaced the road to make it more pedestrian friendly, and major building projects have seen modern developments taking shape behind the street’s period facades on both sides of the road at the Wigmore Street junction. Marylebone Lane is one of Marylebone’s oldest streets, but it is also one of its most dynamic.

BLUE PLAQUES
None—it’s really not that kind of street.

LANDMARK BUILDING
Unlike much of Marylebone, the most striking building on Marylebone Lane is one of the newest—the Triangle Site at the junction with Wigmore Street, which contains a modern office development and some impressive retail spaces, fronted on two of its three sides by the original Victorian facade. It was developed in 2011 by the Howard de Walden Estate.