29 March 2014

London 10 - Marylebone

A Quiet Quarter (Marly-bone as the BBC might have it) 

Mary-le-Bone?  Marrowbone?  Something about bones?  Le Bonne? Simon-le-Bon?  No, not Bonne.  And not Bone neither.......

Mary-Le-Bone.  Sounds French?  Well there's plenty of Frenchification in the area (le Pain Quotidien, Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote par example.....) Aubaine, having started as a bakery in the Brompton Road, then pinging pop-ups into Selfridge's, is now the place for Saturday Brunch in this genteel area....  And if you want to get a whiff of real cheese, just slip into the hermetically sealed cheese shop opposite, where Camembert fumes will overcome your wallet in seconds.

But it is not bones, though there are plenty here; nor bonne, nor French.  The name comes from the church of St Mary at the Bourne, and this particular bourne also gave us Tyburn (Ty Bourne), where hangs another tale...... (The village here was originally named Tybourn and what is now Oxford Street was once Tybourn Road.  The Tyburn Tree, famous place of execution, was where Marble Arch is now.....)

St Marylebone Parish Church, from the Churchyard

This church is the fourth in the area, and was built between 1813 and 1817, at a cost of £60,000.  Its predecessor, which was on Marylebone High Street, was the baptismal spot of Lord Byron.  It was also where Charles Wesley and Lord Nelson worshipped, and both Nelson's and Byron's daughters were baptised there. Charles Dickens, who lived next door from 1839 to 1851, was a member of the congregation of the New Church from time to time.  Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, who had lived in Wimpole Street, were married here in 1846. It is an unusual church, partly because it faces north, and partly because it has a double gallery.

The Apse was added in 1844, and the church quickly added to the attraction of Marylebone, which, unlike some of the other villages of Greater London, does not have deep roots. In the mid eighteenth century there was little here apart from fields, with the odd lane traversing them.  Later it became a good area for burials, like Highgate for example, as there was unused space and few influential inhabitants. 

Where the old church stood is now a memorial garden, which commemorates, among others, George Stubbs (the painter), James Gibbs (the architect) and the Wesleys (Charles, his wife Sarah and their son Samuel);

Though it was not originally placed here, and therefore does not cover any bones......

And nearby, in Paddington Gardens, more memories of bones:

Where also sits the Street Orderly Boy, a statue by Donato Barcaglia of Milan (1849 - 1930) which was placed here in 1943.  A Street Orderly Boy was a street cleaner, perhaps like Jo the Crossing Sweeper in Bleak House.

But poverty and filth are not the themes here.  Marylebone, partly because of its relative newness, is a spacious and comfortable district.  Unlike Clerkenwell, for example, this was never a place of stews and slums.  The fields were allotted to, gifted or leased, gentry from the country, to build their houses and squares.  The names remain, even if the family doesn't.  Harley Street, for example, home of the uber-medics, takes its name from Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford (AKA Lord Harley of Wigmore, hence the Wigmore Hall) in 1730.  He had married Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, only daughter and heir to John Holles, Duke of Newcastle who had bought the Manor of Tyburn in 1710 for £17,500.  

The couple had two daughters.  One died in October 1725 at the age of four days.  The other, Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, married William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland, in 1734 when she was 19.  So she inherited the estates, which included Marylebone High Street, in 1741 when her father died.  This accounts for such place names as Cavendish Square and Portland Place, which was laid out by Robert and James Nash, and which later was the home of Richard Hannay, hero of John Buchan's The Thirty-nine Steps...... 

By the sort of convolutions of peers that arises from endless Country House parties and duels at dawn, all this property passed by marriage to the Howard de Walden family, who just happen to be one of the wealthiest families in England, owning houses such as Audley End in Saffron Walden (the name associated with the very profitable production of saffron....) and reputedly being worth over £1 billion.

Not to be confused with the Portland family, and their Dorset connexions, the Portman family, originally from Somerset, have owned about 110 acres of Marylebone, between Oxford Street and Edgware Road, since the sixteenth century.  Their property includes Portman Square, parts of Baker Street (fictional address of Sherlock Holmes) and Manchester Square, a fine Georgian build from the late eighteenth century.

The north side of this square is occupied by Hertford House. This was originally Manchester House and was at one time the home of the Spanish Ambassador (whose chapel is just nearby - in Spanish Place, just to make it simple), but the 2nd Marquess of Hertford bought the lease in 1797.  A French connection then began under the 3rd Marquess who let the French use it as an Embassy and then while the 4th Marquess was himself in Paris it became a store for the family's growing collection of French Art.

The 4th Marquess however failed to leave legitimate issue, so it became the home of his bastard son, Richard Wallace, whose widow then bequeathed the entire collection, which includes 2,370 pieces of European and Oriental Arms and Armour, 528 pieces of furniture and 510 ceramic objects, to the Nation.

There are wonderful opportunities to compare Canaletto side-by-side to Guardi and that's not to mention Frans Hals' 1624 painting The Laughing Cavalier which is held by some to be the best of all baroque portraits.....

Marylebone Village is a quiet, aristocratic part of London. But, though the Landed Gentry may own the streets and squares, it is not only the high born, nor the "English," who live here.....  

It is a pleasant place in which to wander, and it has attracted a variety of residents, from those mentioned above, through writers and thespians:

To Beatles (both John Lennon and Paul McCartney lived here at times and the Apple offices began in Baker Street and moved to Wigmore Street before finishing in Savile Row) to Nipper Pat Daly (a boxer) and Barbara Windsor.  The Pope-Hennessy family are also remembered in St James's Roman Catholic Church, where Solemn Latin Mass is said at 10.30am every Sunday.

It is an easy place, with old-fashioned shops, such as James Taylor & Son, which still display the lasts from Rab Butler's shoes in their window:

Daunt books have a large shop in the High Street.  This chain, founded in 1990, have kept the former Edwardian bookshop almost as it was, with skylights and raised galleries, and William Morris prints. With an enviable collection of travel writing, and now its own publisher's imprint, this is a place to treasure.

Just down the road is the famous Waitrose clock, a victorian timepiece that somehow John Lewis used to persuade the powers that be that a supermarket would not lower the tone of the High Street.  Or perhaps, the other way up, the city fathers insisted on the time-piece to ensure that this particular grocer was respectable, so no hoi-polloi shopkeeper would get the idea that this was tesco territory!

But time is not the point here.  In Marylebone time stands still and you have to linger, not hurry.  Whether it's a sidewalk cafe.....

A phone call in the car.....

Or just a little window shopping, reflecting on the stylish architecture and the quality produce.....

Marylebone may not be buzzing like an angry wasp, but it fizzes like a glass of champagne.  It may not shock with cultural upheaval, but it is not stuffy, and in the neo-classical splendour of the Parish Church, just back from the snarling traffic of Marylebone Road, there are some surprises to be reflected on.....

And there are some bones connected to the Marylebone......

1 comment:

  1. Richard, I don't know how you have time for all this, but your photography is stunning and certainly makes one wish to get to all these places. I particularly like the Waitrose clock ---- family connections for me there -------- and Marylebone is very connecting !
    Thank You, Liz (J)