Victorian Monopoly from Regent Street to Mayfair

 

Monopoly Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

Welcome to the final part of our journey around the Monopoly Board using only images from the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. Can 1850s Londoners recognise the upmarket locations on the final stretch towards ‘Go’ which have been made so familiar since the London version of this iconic board game first appeared in 1936?. We will begin at Regent Street, moving through several exclusive enclaves (and one less attractive area) before reaching our final destination in Mayfair. But would Victorian Londoners have been so familiar with the places we visit?

Regent St | Oxford St | Bond St
Liverpool St Station | Park Lane Mayfair
Conclusion

Regent Street

Proposal for the creation of ‘Regent Street’ (1813)

Regent Street was an area of London which Victorians automatically associated with modernity and retail innovation. Conceived as an essential new thoroughfare as early as the 1760s – it did not become reality until 1813 when a commission raised £600,000 to begin the work of clearing away slum properties around Swallow Street and replacing them with a new Nash-designed boulevard where the emphasis was on elegance and beauty.


All Souls Church, Regent Street, was first consecrated in November 1824

The architectural brilliance of Nash is no better demonstrated than at All Soul’s Church, Langham Place, which still stands adjacent to BBC Headquarters today. The ‘New Street’ upon which it was built was soon re-christened Regent Street in honour of its chief advocate – the Prince Regent, who had a vision for a new aesthetically pleasing London, hoping to rival and exceed Paris. ‘Regent Street’ was the perfect name given that this new road began at the Prince’s home at Carlton House and wend its way to Marylebone Park (which was simultaneously renamed Regent’s Park).

A view of the Quadrant, Regent St (1822)

As far as the Government were concerned Regent Street was a godsend, providing work during a time of great austerity, unemployment and social disorder – and cost very little thanks to the practice of selling 99-year leases to encourage private investment. The centrepiece of this boulevard-style development was the Quadrant; designed for “shops appropriated to articles of fashion and taste.” Demolition of run-down areas around Swallow Street meant that many craftsmen and traders found themselves without premises from which to trade. But only the very select were invited to relocate to Regent Street, where the emphasis was on high-end goods to rival nearby Bond Street – which was then considered the most fashionable place to shop.

Gentrifying Soho, 1819

Another vision for Regent Street was its ability to segregate London’s enclaves, dividing fashionable squares around St James’ Park from working-class Soho. This was part of the larger scheme of managing public areas, involving installation of gas lighting, introduction of savage Vagrancy Laws to clear away ‘undesirables’ – and the creation of economic barriers precluding lower class business and culture from invading elite spaces. The above report from 1818 is perhaps the first where ‘Regent Street’ is named, revealing that even whilst it was under construction Regent Street remained a perfect location for criminal activity. Within a few short years, however, the underworld were forced to retreat from the new bright lights and well-policed covered walkways which lined Regent Street.

High-Class Retailers were enticed to relocate to Regent Street

Within a very short space of time Regent Street surpassed Bond Street as London’s most important retail area. In 1850 it became the first shopping area in Britain to support late night opening, when shop-keepers agreed to remain open until the ungodly hour of 7pm. But, as we shall discover, Regent Street’s title was merely borrowed – because Oxford Street was rapidly emerging to seize the crown of ‘best shopping street’. Although Bond Street successfully retained its exclusivity and high-end reputation, Regent Street never quite surpassed its primary function as a London thoroughfare – segregating late-Georgian London into self-contained districts – most of which remain familiar to us today.

This image from 1849 shows Regent Street full of pedestrians, traffic and workmen – certainly a familiar location for Victorian Londoners. The scaffolding reveals that Nash’s wondrous Quadrant Colonnade was in the process of being removed. According to shop-owners the lack of natural light rendered their shops less attractive to customers – But, as this contemporary report suggests, knocking down the Colonnade was sadly lamented.

For more information on Regent Street – Usha Rowan has written nice potted history of some of the buildings in Regent Street whilst IanVisits laments the loss of its Colonnade. Finally, Regent Street has its very own website.

For more details about life on the streets of London try Donald Low’s interesting guide to the Regency Underworld

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Oxford Street

Since the end of nineteenth century Oxford Street has been considered to be London’s busiest shopping area, but its ancient history was much less glamorous. Around since Roman times, when it was part of Via Trinobantina – this was an important route connecting Essex and Hampshire via London. By the middle ages it was known as Tyburn Road – being the way prisoners travelled towards Tyburn Gallows (at modern day Marble Arch) for their execution. The practice of accompanying convicts to their place of death was a very important ritual right up until early modern times. It is hardly surprising that Tyburn Road paid host to a variety of service industries geared towards ‘death tourism’ as we might describe it. Street-sellers would even distribute ‘final confession’ tracts as souvenirs before the prisoner was even dead.

Tyburn Road c.1780  – A place to watch death unfold

Enormous crowds attended hangings, but whenever spectators disagreed with sentences passed the Government increasingly met with crowd disorder and riot. To quell this unrest Tyburn Gallows ceased to be used after 1783, and public hangings were moved to a yard immediately outside Newgate Prison. Around this time road surfaces were improved to form important transport routes, thus perhaps Tyburn Road became ‘Oxford Street’ to reflect its new function as the main road out from London heading northwest towards the city of Oxford.

By 1815 Oxford Street was already very gentrified

So, we know that ‘Oxford Street’ arrived in the 1780s, and that within a century it was synonymous with shopping. But what was it like in between these times? And would Oxford Street have been recognised on an early Victorian monopoly board? Well, the answer is an emphatic yes – because it was very quickly transformed by the arrival of many elegant mansion houses built to accommodate the increasingly wealthy aristocratic and mercantile classes, who were eager to own a fashionable London pied-à-terre. By 1850 one such dwelling, named Camelford House, was a long-established tourist attraction connecting curious Victorians with one of the most important events of the century – which (we shall discover) truly changed the course of British history

Half-Mad Lord Camelford (1775-1804)

Camelford House first became renowned in the early 1800s as the home of Thomas Pitt, who known to many as the ‘Half-Mad Lord’ on account of his eccentric, often aggressive lifestyle. A first cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, Camelford was a hot-headed naval officer who could quite easily start a fight in an empty room. In March 1804 Camelford challenged Captain Best to a duel despite knowing full well that his best friend was a deadly marksman. In such an unequal contest there was only going to be one outcome, hence Best was very reluctant to oblige. Geri Walton has written an account of Lord Camelford’s fatal duel – news of which filled the public with dismay.  Before he finally died in Brighton a week after the duel, Camelford absolved Best from any blame for his demise. When his body was returned to Camelford House pending burial The Morning Post wrote

A few days later, it was reported that Camelford’s body had gone missing from the vault at St Anne’s Church, and its whereabouts are still the subject of conjecture today.

Front view of Camelford House, Oxford Street (1850)

Lord Grenville inherited the mansion and used it primarily for entertaining until 1816 – when he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and agreed to lease Camelford House to the most talked-about couple in Regency society: namely Princess Charlotte of Wales and her new husband Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

 

Princess Charlotte – unwilling to follow the Prince Regent’s direction (1814)

Charlotte, Princess of Wales was the product of a short and unhappy marriage, having spent her formative years neglected by her selfish father the Prince Regent, whilst granted only limited access to her mother Caroline of Brunswick – who was kept at arm’s length by her grandfather King George III. At the age of 18, in 1814, Charlotte was now de-facto heir to the British Crown, being next in line after the Prince Regent. She was then placed under enormous pressure to marry but Charlotte stood firm against her father, the press, and polite society by refusing to accept William, the Prince of Orange – who had been foisted upon her. Instead she dug her heels in and demanded marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who was considered by many to be ‘a pauper’. Eventually she got her way, with the last obstacle to fixing a wedding date was Charlotte’s earnest desire to have Camelford House made ready as her marital London home. For Charlotte Camelford’s excellent gardens, upper rooms overlooking Hyde Park, and sumptuous ballroom were ideal, guaranteeing her place amidst the beau monde.  On May 13th 1816 the happy day arrived

Once married, Charlotte stepped out from the shadow of her unpopular father, and began to be judged in her own right. She became a refreshing antidote to the uncaring and wasteful Regent – offering Britain a genuine cause for optimism during a period of bitter social and political distress. To pinch a phrase, she became a kind of ‘people’s princess’ through her relatively down-to-earth choice of Oxford Street rather than a remote palace, away from the public gaze.

Once wed – the public took to Princess Charlotte into their hearts

Britain was agog with excitement when it was announced that Charlotte was expecting a child, and a new age seemed to be dawning. However, this proved short-lived as Oxford Street’s most glamorous couple were dealt a hammer blow by the double tragedy of Charlotte losing her baby boy in childbirth and then her own life on 6th of November 1817. She was just 21 years old; and her death triggered a nationwide torrent of grief. The country was dumbfounded, as two simultaneous deaths blew a hole in the Royal succession, endangering the very survival of the House of Hanover. Suddenly the Prince Regent’s younger brothers were called upon to produce a new legitimate heir to the throne. The Duke of Kent, aged 50, & hastily married in June 1818 was to finally came up with the goods, when his only child Victoria was born in May 1819.

Typical representation of Princess Charlotte’s death scene (1818)

It’s hard to believe that there would have been no Victorian era at all but for the untimely death of Princess Charlotte. Mid-Victorian London fully understood this tragic twist of fate and people often visited Oxford Street to take a peek at Camelford House, the place where their lost queen spent the happiest days of her brief life.

English Monarchs site has a concise biography of Princess Charlotte

The National Trust has written some articles on Princess Charlotte and the Media;

For more information: Time Out has an interesting pictorial history of Oxford Street; The Guardian succinctly reminds us that Oxford Street has not always been known for retail via an article entitled ‘death and shopping

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Bond Street

Bond Street, c.1825

Bond Street was unquestionably famous as a London landmark well before the Victorian era, having first appeared in the 1720s courtesy of developer Sir Thomas Bond, from whom it took its name. Almost from the very beginning Bond Street was synonymous with luxury, attracting the most prestigious clothiers, perfumiers, jewellers and other elite shops. For aspiring socialites Bond Street represented the apogee of trendy living. By the 1790s it was considered cool to be described as a ‘Bond Street Lounger’ for this signified a person of high fashion, whose sole purpose was to display their exquisite taste by parading the wide pavements around Bond Street in order to see and be seen.


Looking at the latest Bond Street fashions (1796)

Bond Street helped to formulate a new democratic route to fame, overturning age-old prerequisites such as family status and personal achievement, to create what we now describe as celebrity. Here it became possible to reach the summit of high society simply via exerting influence in the realm of popular culture. Ordinary men like George ‘Beau’ Brummell (who was the son of a tailor) became universally acknowledged for their insight and wit, helping Georgian England to cast off its wigs, tights and powder puff faces – in favour of a fresh clean cut trouser and cravat wearing style. Women were equally ready to shed their horrible courtly garb which demanded the wearing of ridiculously wide hooped dresses, in favour of sleeker, more ravishing attire they saw worn around Bond Street by ladies of influence such as the Duchess of Devonshire. The above satire from 1796 reflects a craze for ostrich feathers in ladies hats – which caused much chuckling in some quarters, but was widely emulated – as far as the lower orders could afford to purchase.

Bond Street could also be the road to ruin (1800)

An Irish visitor to London in 1809 reported on the phenomenon of city gents and other middling class workers flocking to Bond Street each afternoon to pass themselves off as ‘Bond Street Loungers’. He noted that the most important part of their daily routine was to read the newspapers to see if their names appeared on the list of attendees at fashionable events. Almost all luxury purchasing was carried out using an informal system of credit, usually relying on a person’s status and family connections. Because it was considered impolite to actually ask for payment from clients some shop owners and tradesmen often waited years for their accounts to be settled. Not surprisingly many an honest retailer got to the brink of ruin before they took action against non-payers. Inevitably some young bloods found to be lacking in funds ended up in debtors prison having been apprehended at their lodgings. These reckless non-payers often shared cells with bankrupted businessmen who had failed to act quickly enough to recover their debts, and whose chances of redemption were much less likely.  ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley (of Wanstead House notoriety) was one such wastrel –  In 1804 his father became so fed up with writs arriving at his house in Savile Row, that he had to banish his 16-year-old lad to the wilds of Suffolk until arrangements were made repay the £600 debt ran up with various exclusive fashion outlets.  We can see why Wellesley-Pole called a halt to his boy’s extravagance, especially as an ordinary family household could live reasonably on just £50 per year at that time. But for those of us today lamenting  the untimely  loss of Wanstead House and its magnificent estate, it might have been better if Wellesley-Pole had let his son to face the consequences, and perhaps have leart his lesson, by spending time in  a debtor’s prison.

Wicked William Long-Wellesley – A Bond Street Lounger and proud of it

As the nineteenth century progressed Bond Street enhanced its high-end reputation by hosting a number of art dealers and antique shops, placing it firmly at the top end of Victorian London’s connoisseur market. Not surprisingly a clutch of specialised auction houses were established handling the sale of luxury items on behalf of clients throughout Britain. As this advertisement from 1848 confirms, Bond Street provided the best marketplace for both sellers and buyers of quality goods. Given this tradition, it is hardly surprising that Sotheby’s London headquarters was relocated in Bond Street in 1918, and remains there today.

Hedgers was one of the many niche auction houses situated in Bond Street c.1850

To discover more about Bond Street, why not look at its fashionable connection with ‘Beau Brummell’ – check out the Bond Street Association or discover London’s Bond Streets – Old and New via The Regency Redingote.

The fascinating story of Jean Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) – who was taylor to George, Prince of Wales, has been written by his great-great-great-great grandson, Charles Bazalgette and is entitled Prinny’s Taylor –  providing a revealing insight into the private relationship between a craftsman and the heir to the British throne.

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Liverpool Street Station

Liverpool Street Station Facade c.1875 (Courtesy of Grace’s Guide)

Our intrepid Victorian-era Monopoly player would be finally stumped by the location of Liverpool Street Station. Liverpool Street was certainly familiar, but the Great Eastern Railway Station to which it gave its name was not constructed until 1875. Unlike many of London’s Monopoly destinations, however, Liverpool Street was only baptised in the late 1820s – a new thoroughfare off Bishopsgate that was named to honour the in memory of recently deceased Prime Minister Lord Liverpool (who had served between 1812 and 1827).

Prior to the coming of the railway terminus, the vicinity of Liverpool Street served as a key stagecoach hub for Londoners departing to all parts of the country. This association with travel could easily have pointed our Victorian Monopoly player in the right direction, so if we tweak this Monopoly square to Liverpool Street  ‘Coach‘ Station then perhaps our journey would not be thwarted after all.

Sir William Rawlins’ tomb at st Botolph without Bishopsgate,

Not all journeys through Liverpool Street involved the living, For in 1838 Sir William Rawlins – who had a house at 44 Liverpool Street – passed away but left very detailed instructions regarding the route of his funeral procession and design for his memorial crypt in St Botolph’s Church. He died aged 84 after a chequered life that saw him imprisoned at Newgate for electoral fraud (1805) but afterwards rise to civic prominence as a successful business man (joint founder of Eagle Star Insurance Company). He was a generous benefactor, especially in regard to St Botolph’s, which is in Bishopsgate. The London Dead has written a great blog concerning Rawlin’s funeral arrangements and the very recent restoration of his tomb

 

The Four Swans Inn, Bishopsgate Street (1848)

I have written a blog recording the principal inns for departure from London (1819) but nineteenth century London was an equally busy arrival destination, receiving many troubled souls from locations, backgrounds and ages, hoping to make their fortunes, escape their woes, or occasionally just to put an end to their miserable existence. One such sad arrival occurred on December 3rd 1826 as a young man of ‘extreme gentlemanly exterior’ checked into The Four Swans Inn, which stood in the shadow of Liverpool Street.The Age reported what happened next

 He desired a bed-chamber [and] until 6 o’clock in the evening was undisturbed. At this time as it was imagined he was still asleep the waiter entered… and found the curtains of the bed closely drawn round… and the dreadful spectacle presented to his view; the unfortunate gentleman laid on the bed, completely undressed, and literally saturated in the gore of blood  [having] shot himself through the heart. In his right hand a duelling pistol was clenched. From letters found upon his person, he was found to be of highly respectable background;  William Jackson, aged 22, from Debenham in Suffolk. It is thought that he fired at the time a coach was coming into the yard.to drown out the noise of the report

This tragic story paints a picture of Liverpool Street very much part of a rather transient and deprived area during Victorian times; one serving as the backdrop to many of Charles Dickens’ novels. In this light the placement of Liverpool Street Station so far up the Monopoly board amidst the posher streets of London would certainly have confused our Victorian player. Setting aside this fact however, we do find that as early as 1850 Liverpool Street earmarked to be the site for a future railway terminus – giving us just enough grounds to admit it onto the Victorian Monopoly board

Liverpool Street and Broad Street c.1850 – designated as places for citing new railway stations

For an interesting run through Liverpool Street Station history visit Grace’s Guide or Network Rail

Alternatively The Londonist reveals seven secrets about Liverpool Street Station

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Park Lane

Turnpike at Hyde Park Corner c.1856 – southern entrance to Park Lane, London

For over two centuries Park Lane has been considered one of the London’s prime thoroughfares, so that its place on the most exclusive section of the Monopoly board is fully deserved. Running north from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch, Park Lane quickly evolved from being the boundary of Hyde Park into a sought after place to build or own a mansion in Georgian England. As London became increasingly urbanised the old Turnpike Gate (pictured above) was superseded by the construction of Hyde Park Corner. During the 1850s Park Lane underwent a second phase of development with many of the original mansions torn down and replaced by a combination of modern-style villas for the nouveau riche and luxury hotels or apartments serving the many visitors attracted to Town during what was known as the London Season.

The mid-Victorian visitor witnessed Park Lane was in the process of change; as older landmarks began to be superseded by newer attractions. This state of flux gave Park Lane a vibrancy that boosted its appeal, with traditional pastimes such as parading ones carriage around Rotten Row (Hyde Park) running parallel with modern retail and fashionable entertainments available nearby.

 

Mrs Fitzherbert’s old house, Tilney Street, Park Lane c.1850

The 1850s saw London begin to forget one of its most famous locations, namely No 6 Tilney Street – which was on the corner of Park Lane – one-time home to one of the Georgian era’s most famous and enduring courtesans, Maria Fitzherbert.

Maria Fitzherbert (1756-1837),

On the 17th December 1785 twice-widowed Maria Fitzherbert married her ardent young lover George, Prince of Wales, in a ceremony held in the drawing room of her house off Park Lane. Because she was a Catholic the marriage was not considered valid without the consent of King George III. But even if the King had authorised his son’s marriage claim, under the terms of the Royal Marriages Act (1772) the Prince of Wales would still have had to renounce his claim to the throne. Six anxious months of behind the scenes wrangling ensued before the Prince of Wales was persuaded to give up his love. He agreed to marry a cousin Caroline of Brunswick on condition that the King wiped away George’s £600,000 of debt. Perhaps Maria Fitzherbert was the true love of George’s life – for almost as soon as he was married the Prince resumed their liaison, continuing a relationship that was to last until the 1820s. The depth of George’s feelings for Maria can be gauged by the fact that when he drew up a will in 1796,  he stipulated that all his possessions were to go to Mrs Fitzherbert whom he described as ‘to the wife of my heart and soul’.

Prince George marries Mrs Fitzherbert at her home in Park Lane (1786)

In later years, after the Prince had became George IV, their relationship ended – yet those decades of clandestine visits to Park Lane were not easily forgotten, for in 1830 the King’s dying request was to be buried wearing Maria’s eye miniature around his neck. In her twilight years Mrs Fitzherbert split her time between Brighton and the house in Park Lane.

After her death in March 1837 the celebrated auctioneer George Robins was engaged to oversee the sale of Mrs Fitzherbert’s house. The public were granted an unprecedented glimpse into the very rooms where Maria and George played out their love affair and to appreciate why this house was so important to their relationship

The grand suite embraces 5 drawing rooms, lofty and of the best proportions, all en-suite, and terminating with a conservatory, which entirely overlooks the Park. On the ground floor as the salon à manger, library, and breakfast parlour…. nothing is wanting to render it an abode especially adapted to a family of consequence. Thereis an abundance of stabling, two double coach-houses, with servants’ rooms

Amazingly the house was owned on a renewable lease expiring in 1865 with a reserved rent of just £5 and 10 shillings – an indication of the grace and favour Mrs Fitzherbert enjoyed through her personal connection with Royalty. No 6 Tilney Street continued to pay host to high society gatherings, remaining a place of curiosity and interest to Victorian London.

Dorchester House, Park Lane, built in 1853

One of the most architecturally important new structures in London was constructed in Park Lane during the early 1850s. Dorchester House was commissioned by Robert Staynor Holford and designed for the purpose of housing his art collection. Its most famous feature was a superb central staircase into which light cascaded and made the whole structure bright and airy.

The staircase at Dorchester House

In the 1890s Dorchester House served as the American Embassy, before it too was swept away in 1929 to be replaced by the Dorchester Hotel – which is even today still remains a popular base for American tourists. This might explain why Park Lane was ranked so highly by original creators of the London Monopoly board in 1936.

The Duke of Wellington’s funeral procession through Park Lane (1852)

We cannot depart Park Lane without a nod towards one of its most famous inhabitants, namely the Duke of Wellington. His house may not have quite been in Park Lane – being at Hyde Park Corner – but the Wellington Monument can be found there, and it was past this colossal tribute to Britain’s most successful military leader, that Wellington’s funeral procession passed on November 18th 1852. This was the end of an era as the hero of Waterloo was laid to rest, and Britain with a bright young Queen was preparing for a new generation. The Times gave a flavour of how Londoners filled the streets to say farewell

British History On Line has a thorough look at the buildings and places of interest in Park Lane though Hidden London’s guide is more readable

Frances Osborne has written a novel capturing the essence of Park Lane during the Suffragette era (1914)

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Mayfair

Berkeley Square, Mayfair (1813)

Mayfair deserves its spot at the top end of the Monopoly board because it is a district rather than one street situated east of Hyde Park between Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Park Lane. Originally largely rural Mayfair acquired its name from an annual May Fair festival held on the site of what is now Shepherd Market, near modern-day Piccadilly. As London expanded westwards a series of elegant squares swallowed up the countryside, and the force of urbanisation eventually forced the May Fair festival to close – its final appearance being  recorded in 1764. By this date developments such as Grosvenor Square and Hanover Square had already been around for 50 years or so.  These grandiose terraces were always designed to keep the poor and needy away, so the function of Mayfair as a rich man’s enclave was commonl knowledge well before the dawn of the Victorian era.

Grosvenor Square (1830) already bereft of riff-raff

Mayfair was particularly involved in a late Georgian drive to clean up the streets of London. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 provided authorities with draconian powers against anyone deemed to be loitering or begging on the streets – Local beadles and the newly formed Metropolitan Police (1829) actively patrolled the streets of Mayfair harassing and removing undesirables. The introduction of gas lighting drove London’s underworld away, enabling the well-off began to enjoy a totally different existence to that faced by the vast majority of ordinary Londoners. Not all of the rich set agreed with this street purge. For example William Wellesley-Pole, who lived in Savile Row, went to Court to defend his right to assist a local beggar-woman but was unable to prevent her imprisonment.

Wicked William of Wanstead House notoriety was born in Mayfair and baptised St George’;s Hanover Square in July 1788

Despite its opulence, Mayfair remained a key area for employment – vital to London’s economy. Legions of servants, tradesmen, delivery and service providers were called upon to keep the wheels of luxury turning. For these less fortunate souls the dangers of Mayfair never quite receded. On February 9th 1860 Bell’s Life in London reported of a tragic accident befalling a coal man making his deliveries in Mayfair – leaving his wife and family destitute

For Victorian England the iniquity of life did not go unnoticed. In 1858 this was encapsulated by the publication of a 3-volume novel entitled The Morals of Mayfair by Anne Edwards. Certainly not good enough to be considered a classic, her tale of high society recklessness received this rather telling review:

Through this we learn that Victorian London was developing a conscience – with dissent against aristocratic selfishness and privilege becoming more vocal .Yes, Mayfair was well-known to all Victorian Londoners, but not everyone championed its virtues.

Learn more about what Mayfair has to offer today, find out about Mayfair and Belgravia’s Grosvenor Estate or visit History of London’s history of Mayfair blog

 

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Concluding Comments

So we have now reached the end of our journey into Victorian London via the Monopoly Board route. Overall it must be said that the streets and locations chosen in 1936 held the same resonance for 1850s Londoners. In fact some Monopoly squares, such as Vine Street and Coventry Street, were more familiar to the Victorian than they would be to modern players. However we have to admit that the continual evolution of London has created some sticking points that (at the very least) would have had Victorians scratching their heads. Understandably the railways stations of Marylebone and Liverpool Street were not to be found. Also we must agree that Northumberland Avenue was a later addition to the London map. However, the beauty of London has always been that buildings and landmarks change – but names often seem to endure. In the same way that ‘Kings Cross’ survived long after the monument it refers to had gone – Marleybone Station, Liverpool Street Station, and Northumberland Avenue have assumed names very much in keeping with what Victorian London would have known –  landmarks whose location they could still safely guess (even when the original places such as Northumberland House) were long gone.

Automated public transport being trialled in London (1830)

Another lesson we may learn from our trip through Victorian London is the sheer familiarity we still enjoy with that era. Who would have thought, for instance, that steam carriage omnibuses (1830), railway stations (c.1840), water works (c.1600), or an Electric Company (1852) would have been part of their lives? There is so much continuity about London – its buildings and people may change, but the distinct areas seem to maintain their traditional flavour.

If Monopoly had first been drawn up in 1850, it would contained most of the key places and thoroughfares we expect to see today. However, there were certainly some Victorian hot spots missing: for example Vauxhall (for its pleasure grounds), Chancery Lane (legal hub), Smithfield (meat and other produce markets), Covent Garden (entertainments, both legal and illicit), or Cornhill (banking district).

In conclusion I hope that the many images used within this series of Monopoly related blogs will serve to promote the British Museum’s image collection, particularly from the Crace Collection, as a fantastic resource for ALL. This has been a long journey with some lengthy sections, but I hope you have enjoyed accompanying me to the finish line…

Further Monopoly Related Links

  1. Barry Palmer, Ben Skinner and Steve Rose have published a series of interesting pub crawls round the Monopoly Board venues
  2. The Londonist has created a great real life Monopoly Board
  3. Visit Britain suggests you walk the Monopoly Board
  4. 501 Places reckons you can do the London Monopoly Board by foot in 12 hours!

I would be happy to add any further links on request

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♦♦♦

Wicked William’s blog has a special focus on London, so you may also be interested in meeting Peggy Jones, the London Mudlark or Regency Prizefighter Tom ‘The Navigator’ Shelton or the learn how multicultural East London actually was back in the Georgian era.  As for William and his dastardly deeds – you can follow him to war, join him at the Epping Hunt, or attend his wedding ceremony at St James, Piccadilly

Victorian Monopoly – From ‘Pall Mall’ to ‘Free Parking’

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

In this second section we continue our quest to navigate the Monopoly Board using only images held in the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. By doing so we will find out whether an 1850s Londoner could have made sense of the streets and enclaves immortalised when this iconic board game first appeared in its London format in 1936. We shall wend our way from Pall Mall up to Free Parking, constituting the half-way point – but will our journey founder upon the altar of modernity? Highlights include a fond farewell to Carlton House, a fruitless search for Marylebone Station and a daring escape from Bow Street Police Station:

Pall Mall

This scene looking east down Pall Mall -with Carlton House immediately on the right and the colonnade to the opera house on the left, was published in Ackerman’s Repository of the Arts magazine in 1822. It shows Pall Mall during a time of great change. Carlton House was entering its last days, but the Royal Opera Arcade (built in 1818 and still here today) was the shape of things to come – for Pall Mall was to be an integral part of George IV’s vision of a new London – which was made real over a decade of great change for this locality.

Pall Mall was originally built in 1661, though a thoroughfare existed here since Saxon times – and its adoption as a roadway in 1662 made it the official route between St James’ Palace and the Mall. Just a few years earlier this strip of land had been fenced off and used as a ‘pelemele court’ by Charles II  – but this early version of croquet was often spoiled by dust blown over by carriages passing on the adjacent lane-way – so the loss of this sporting venue was largely unlamented. Almost as soon as it was paved over, this new street became known as ‘Pall Mall’, a name it retains to this day.

South Front of Carlton House (1819)

When the Prince Regent became King George IV in 1820 he was living at Carlton House, and this continued to operate as his principal London residence until 1826 when he moved to newly refurbished and extended Buckingham Palace. His association with Carlton House began in 1783, and within a few years the then Prince of Wales transformed the mansion along French neoclassical lines. During its lifetime Carlton House’s ambition was only constricted by the size of the Prince’s debts – meaning that it endured bursts of intense re-modelling sandwiched between periods of relative calm. Over time this mansion became one of the most important venues for entertainment and pleasure amongst the ruling elite. Consequently Carlton House’s fall from grace in just 5 years seems drastic – but it was quite typical of George to switch the focus of his creative attention elsewhere. Once he decided upon Buckingham Palace, and appointed Nash to undertake its rebuilding, Carlton House was living on borrowed time. George IV’s other great passion was the development of London along classical lines – and his desire to link Regent Street with the Mall meant that Carlton House needed to go. On March 30th 1826 The Times reported

Carlton House will be taken down at the latter end of the ensuing summer, and preparations are now being made for the temporary reception of the furniture belonging to that royal residence, till the new palace at Buckingham House is completed. On the ground opened by the removal of Carlton House, many noble edifices are to be erected, all of which are to be occupied by our first Nobility… It is also likely that a Club House, for the United Service Club, enlarged and on a much greater scale than heretobefore, will stand in this area. There is to be an opening into [St James’] Park which will be a striking improvement: from this (turning to the right) will be a noble row of architectural houses facing the canal. These will stand on a terrace, and stretch from the opening (at Waterloo Place) to the Ordnance Office… occupying the present gardens of Carlton House – now bounded by the dead wall towards the ride in the Park.

United Service Club, Pall Mall

The United Services Club was completed by 1829 (when this Thomas Hosmer Shepherd image was drawn), surviving until the late 1970s, and the building is still there today as part of the Institute of Directors. As for Carlton House – its famous front facade – reused for the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, is still a pleasing sight today.

For my final word on Carlton House, I must defer to His Majesty George IV, and a newspaper clipping from The Age March 9th 1828, demonstrating the King’s emotional attachment to his old home

Adieu to Carlton House – by George IV (Allegedly)

We are informed that his Majesty, since his arrival in Town, made a pilgrimage to the ruins of his old Palace, scarcely a vestige of which now remains. On his return to St James’, his spirits were much depressed, when he retired to his own apartment. The above elegy was found upon the table

The Lothians Blogspot has written a very detailed and interesting history of the rise and fall of Carlton House

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Electric Company

Finding an electric company in 1850s London was, not surprisingly, a difficult task. For this I was fortunate to locate just one suitable print from the 5000+ held in the Crace Collection – to enable us to progress further

This particular scene from 1852 shows two views of the time-ball on top of a turret in the Strand; the view on the left including the Electric Telegraph Company’s offices, and on the right a close-up of the time-ball on top of the turret. Clearly, electrical power was in its infancy by the 1850s. A quick trawl of the newspapers shows that the Electrical Telegraph Company spent a great deal of its early existence dealing with court cases relating to patents for its new technology. It claimed to own no less than 40 of its own patents, but I think this indicates that electrical power was being developed by a wide number of groups simultaneously. For, as early as 1838 London hosted a meeting of the Electrical Society at which Mr Crosse gave a full account of his electrical experiments. The Society itself was formed to ‘for the purpose of explaining and making public the mysteries’ of electricity, so we can imagine this encouraged more widespread interest and investment in this nascent technology. Thus, a Victorian landing upon Electric Company may be ignorant of what it entailed, but not unaware that electrical power was in the process of development

Thus, on August 19th 1852, The Times reported on the new electric time ball installed in the Strand (pictured above)

After a satisfactory completion of the requisite arrangements which had for some time been pending between the Electric Telegraph Company and the Astronomer Royal at Greenwich, Mr Edwin Clark [was entrusted for] the construction of the ingenious apparatus for the development of the electric telegraph system, as applied to the regulation of time on a plan for distributing and correcting mean Greenwich time in London and… throughout the UK every day at 1 o’clock

Perhaps the most important outcome of this new development was the standardisation of time throughout the UK – which would have been of massive benefit to the railways – ensuring that timetables would be accurate to a specific location, namely Greenwich mean time. For Victorian Britain, this was to be a significant shift towards modernity

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Whitehall

One of the most frequent images found in the Crace Collection is that of the Banqueting House at Whitehall – famous for being the place where Charles I was beheaded in 1649  – when Britain entered a period of commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell (who coincidentally took up residence in Whitehall thereafter). There has been a roadway at Whitehall since the 12th century, but it most likely adopted its name from the Palace of Whitehall, which was the residence of English Kings from Henry VIII to William III. The building burned down in 1698 – apart from the before-mentioned Banqueting House which is still with us today. The above image shows Whitehall and the Horse Guards circa 1811, and we can see that at that time is was still little more than a dirt track

As is is today, Whitehall was synonymous with the heart of Government in Victorian times – housing numerous Departments of State including the Admiralty, the Horse Guards and the Treasury.

A view of the Admiralty, 1818

This view from the street of the Admiralty in Whitehall comes from Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts , showing the arched entrance to the forecourt and screen wall. This three-sided building (not to be confused with the Admiralty Arch at Trafalgar Square) was constructed in 1726 to a design by Thomas Ripley, but was instantly criticised for its baroque-style which was thought out-moded by the new fashion for Palladianism. However it has endured until today, and it is thought to be the first ever purpose-built office. Thoughtfully renamed the Ripley Building, this property is now used by the Department for International Development

Unlike us, the Victorians would have also associated Whitehall with the River Thames. Its piers were important departure points for both Government and Royalty – most notably serving as the main exit route for important personages fleeing London during the Great Plague in 1665. By the 1830s Whitehall even had its own annual regatta – traditionally held in July – a contest for double scullers, offering various prizes put forward by noblemen and gentry. On July 17th 1843 The Morning Post reported

Amongst the nobility and gentry who subscribed to the regatta for men plying at Whitehall stairs, were his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Sir Robert Peel… the race was contested on Friday, with six pairs of sculls in two heats. At an early hour in the afternoon the whole of the men started… at half past six the final was held, four were afloat to race from the Duke of Buccleuch’s, down round the Thames… up round Westminster Bridge, and finish at Whitehall. T Piner junior retained the lead and won by a length and a half… his father finished in third.

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Northumberland Avenue

This is the first serious stumbling block on our journey around the early Victorian monopoly board, because Northumberland Avenue was not built until 1876, following the demolition of Northumberland House near Charing Cross. This image from 1826 shows Northumberland House in the background with an equestrian statue of Charles I on the right and the Golden Cross Coaching Inn on the left. However, we must recall that Northumberland Street (to the rear of the mansion) already existed in 1850 – and the House itself was a well-known landmark  to the south of Trafalgar Square – meaning that most Victorians would have known where to go to locate ‘Northumberland Avenue’ on their Monopoly Board.

Northumberland House – James Green (1761)

Northumberland House, built in 1605 to a Jacobean style, lay on a roadway down to the busy wharfs of the Thames serving Charing Cross and Westminster. But as Northumberland Street became increasingly commercialised this mansion eventually became the last bastion of residential homes which once lined that street. After the 1820s the Duke of Northumberland came under increasing pressure to sell his mansion to the Metropolitan Board of Works, who wished to build a new, wider road down to the river. But the Duke was unwilling to leave his ancestral home and resisted all overtures – until disaster forced his hand. On August 22nd 1868 Bell’s Life in London reported

Shortly before midnight on Thursday last the town residence of the Duke of Northumberland was discovered to be on fire. Five steam engines were quickly on the spot, but the flames were not extinguished until the roof of the south-west wing, used as a ball-room, was burned off, paintings, furniture, and decorations partly destroyed… with confectionery rooms underneath damaged by fire and water. Fortunately the drawing room, dining room, marble staircase, and upper suite of saloons and valuable paintings have escaped destruction. though some splendid friezes have been more of less injured… but these are insured… Workmen employed at the house are supposed to have caused the fire.

As a consequence of this carnage, the Duke of Northumberland agreed to sell his mansion for £500,000 – a colossal sum by today’s standards (perhaps £50M) – paving the way for Northumberland Avenue to appear on the London map

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Marylebone Station

The only station serving the parish of Marylebone in the 1850s was at King’s Cross, so a Victorian would have scratched his head at the thought of another station in that area. However, such was the craze for railroads in mid-Victorian times, that no Victorian would have been entirely surprised at the thought of one springing up in the heart of Marylebone. But no such station appeared – and until the 1890s Euston, King’s Cross and Paddington became the key transport hubs for that area.

A trawl of the Crace collection finds just one image of a railway in Marylebone – which is an 1837 view from beneath the Hampstead Road Bridge looking towards Euston Station, as a steam train comes into view. It looks like the rush hour that day for we can see a queue carriages and waggons on the bridge – though we also have a hot air balloon high in the sky above – so not everyone is at work. There is so much to see in this 180-year-old scene – which convinces me to go on from this setback and see what else confounds us on our journey.

Never a real London landmark – Marylebone Station

As for Marylebone Station, we must halt a while to question why that poorest relation of all London mainline stations should ever have been included in the 1936 Monopoly board game. This station only opened in 1899 as the London terminus of the Great Central Main Line, being the last major railway to open in Britain in over 100 years, linking the capital to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester. Marylebone was always too small to compete with its rivals, poorly conceived in relation to connection with tube stations already in operation nearby – and must be considered a failed vanity-project. It never really had a heyday and was lucky to survive complete closure in the 1980s.- ironically saved by public appeal.

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Bow Street

We’ve had a real wobble on our last two stops round our Victorian monopoly board, so its great to land back on more secure ground at Bow Street, a roadway situated just south of Covent Garden, parallel to the Strand – which has been around since the 1630s. Once a home for London’s aristocrats, by the 1750s Bow Street had declined into a seedy area frequented by journalists and prostitutes (rather fittingly), as well as lodgings for actors serving theatres in Covent Garden and Drury Lane. But its decline was halted after a magistrates court was built there in 1740, and a decade later the novelist Henry Fielding established the Bow Street Runners – a kind of embryonic vigilante group – paid to catch and convict miscreants. This 1825 view by James Winston shows the old police office used by the Bow Street Runners. Even after the newly-founded Metropolitan Police built their own station at Bow Street in 1832 – the Runners continued to operate – but they disbanded in 1839 as proper policing became established.

On September 5th 1825 The Times reported upon a daring escape attempt made from the Bow Street Police Office:

Mary Anne Smith, a woman of about 25 years of age, was committed to the House of Correction, for an assault upon a watchman. Previously to her removal she was locked up in the gaol yard [which is] about 20 or 30 feet square and surrounded by a brick wall about 20 feet in height, and it was over this formidable barrier that the prisoner Smith resolved to effect her liberation. Taking advantage of the temporary absence of the gaoler she placed a wooden bench, upon which the prisoners it, upright, and using this as a ladder… thence to gain the top of the wall. From here she made her way over house and chimney-top until she entered a window at Mr Day, boot-maker in Russell Street. From the window she made a dangerous leap over an interval descending the whole depth of that building – had she missed her footing instant death would have bee the consequence. The gaoler followed close behind fell and for some time hung on for his life at the ledge of the window… The woman got to the street door where she met Mr Day – to him she confessed her purpose and he told her the best place for concealment was the cellar – but officers then arrived at the house and secured the prisoner… The poor creature stated that she had been driven to risk her life on account of two infants who depended upon her, their father having died three weeks ago.

This desperately sad story has a compassionate ending for the chief officer at Bow Street, Mr Minshull ‘with a suitable admonition, humanely ordered her to be discharged. He considered the terror at the situation which her hazardous enterprise evinced, would operate to deter any future offence.’  We don’t know what became of Mary Anne Smith, but she went into the record books as the first person to successfully effect an escape from Bow Street police station.

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Marlborough Street

Our next port of call is Marlborough Street, where we find our subject remains police-related. This Thomas Hosmer Shepherd painting from 1854 shows the front of a Police Office on the north side of Marlborough Street, with a few police officers standing by the entrance. These police certainly look pretty much how we would imagine  Victorian ‘Peelers’ would be. Marlborough Street first made an appearance on 1704 and lies in Soho just south of Oxford Street. Perhaps its most famous building nowadays is Liberty Store which stands on the junction with Regent Street.

Marlborough Street has a Police Office from around 1800, which also served as a magistrates court. Quite often the court dealt with the very lowest section of society – committing to prison petty thieves, drunks and beggars. These cases often attracted little attention – it was only when the rich or powerful got involved, that press coverage was guaranteed. One such occasion was in 1826 when a case was brought on by the Mendacity Society, against an 80-year-old tramp. She was defended by Lord Maryborough  ‘with a zeal, feeling, and good sense, which would be a credit and ornament to any man’. Ellen Goodall’s crime was to stand with her hand out near Hanover Square – considered as begging – and despite Maryborough’s involvement she was sentenced to a fortnight in prison.

The idle rich had no respect for the police

Marlborough Street also had a long and chequered history of dealing with badly behaved aristocrats, whose lenient treatment proved a stark contrast to the often savage sentences meted out upon the poor.  Young bucks enjoyed nights out on the Town, usually getting drunk, and then proceeding to beat or attack person positions in authority. It was almost a right-of-passage for young Lords to misbehave and behave antisocially on London’s streets –  knowing full well they would escape the consequences. For example, on June 22nd 1825 the Morning Post reported

Yesterday Lord Harborough was charged by a watchman with having violently assaulted him at Steven’s Hotel in Bond Street…. striking him several times with a poker… and his fists… to wound him most severely. [He] was very noisy in the street… On the other hand, a Gentleman, who was looking out of the window at the time, deposed that no such noise had been made… the the Gentleman had been willing to come forward to answer any charge… and that he was only resisting attacks by the watchman, who outrageously rushed into the Coffee Room upon him, and then the alleged assault had been committed. 

Not surprisingly the (probably paid) witness swayed the case and the Magistrate bailed Lord Harborough pending further investigation. Given that the watchman would not have had the means to proceed, we must assume that this arrogant toff went unpunished – reinforcing the ingrained injustice of our legal system at that time.

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Vine Street  – (Lambeth not Piccadilly)

This is a peculiar step on our journey because Vine Street is probably the most obscure location to be found on the Monopoly board – being a very tiny cul-de-sac to the rear of Piccadilly. In the days before Regent Street this was a much longer road, and it would certainly have been well-known to Victorians on account of Vine Street Police Station, founded around 1750, which grew from a watch-house into one of the busiest police stations in the world, and sat alongside a court-house which was active throughout the Victorian era. Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street share an association with law courts – and this explains why they were grouped together in the orange section of a Monopoly board.

There is no question that Vine Street was recognisable to Victorian Londoners – but they would have instantly asked: Which One? For London had a second Vine Street just south of the river in Lambeth and was the main thoroughfare towards Hungerford Bridge, which was opened in 1845. This Vine Street was engulfed by a natural disaster which occurred on January 29th 1850

The tide rose so extraordinarily high as to overflow the walls of the river and inundate the various thoroughfares along either shore. So unexpected was the high tide that no one had made any preparation to preserve their property, and the consequence was that mischief to an incalculable amount was done… The first notice the inhabitants received of this fearful visitation was shortly after three o’clock – about half an hour before high water. At that period water began to flow over the banks.. and in the space of ten minutes it became apparent that a fearful destruction of property, if not human life, was inevitable. The various wharfs along the river soon presented immense sheets of water, timber, and other articles being forced about with the strength of the tide in terrible confusion… The property destroyed in Lambeth Parish must reach many thousand pounds… The whole of Vine Street was one great expanse of water, and the only means for the residents to leave their habitations were in boats… The water travelled as far as the terminus of the South Western Railway, in York Road. In Vine Street it rushed into kitchens, and forced the furniture up to the ceilings. In one house three children nearly perished; their mother being upstairs… hearing them scream, she rushed downstairs and found the water half way to the ceiling, and the children up to their necks in water…

The great flood as seen from Lambeth Stairs (1850)

This upper Thames flood was recorded as the worst for 50 years, and helped to accelerate two major improvements – firstly the construction of embankments on either side of the Thames, which vastly improved flood defences; and secondly; the improvement in London’s sewage management. Just a few weeks before this flood, MPs debated the awful problem of pollution on the Thames and how it could be alleviated. To have that dank and deadly water overspill into homes and businesses so soon afterwards must have been a catalyst for change, and began London’s long road towards environmental recovery

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Free Parking

Free Parking was probably a bit of a bonus in 1936 as London was already well accustomed to traffic gridlock. Today it is just a pipe-dream for London’s motorists, used to Congestion Charging, Residential Parking Permits, Red Routes, and Pay-by-Phone extortion – should they ever decide to travel in by car. For the Victorians parking was never an issue, but they would have been accustomed to knowing where to find parked hansom cabs in order to travel from A to B – and these would have commonly been found outside hotels and inns, stations, shops and businesses. Above we see a view of Oxford Street in 1831 – with carriages waiting outside Stafford House – ready for hire.

Let’s wait until the next segment before we catch our taxi onwards to cross the Victorian Monopoly Board, and conclude this second part by reflecting upon a difficult journey,  which began at Pall Mall and had us lost for a while in Northumberland Avenue and Marylebone Station, before putting us back on surer, more familiar territory amongst the orange enclave – which last delivered us safely to ‘Free Parking’.

I hope you will join me for Part 3 of our trip, which sets out from The Strand but almost inevitably will put us all in ‘Jail’.

If you are interested in London history, you may like to learn about 3 Savile Row or find out how to catch a stagecoach (1819-style)

Beyond my own pages, I would recommended the following excellent London-related blogs: