Monday, August 22, 2016

Tottenham Court Road

Arriving at Tottenham Court Road Underground station is a colourful experience. The walls of the station have been decorated with mosaics. Designed by the British artist Eduard Paolozzi they were installed on the platforms and entrance halls in 1984. I think they are the most popular of the Underground Art installations.

They bring the platforms to life with Paolozzi's interpretation of life above ground.

More artwork awaits the traveller as they ascend the escalators. The bold simple shapes of Daniel Buren's design transforms an otherwise dull exit. Tottenham Court Road station is undergoing a major transformation as the new Elizabeth Line  (Crossrail) will be stopping here as well as the Central and Northern underground lines

Directly opposite the exit from the station is The Flying Horse pub. Its heritage dates back to 1790 and is the last remaining pub on Oxford Street.

The very tall building next to the station is Centre Point one of the first sky scrapers in London . In the early 60s it was thought to be a good idea to erect tall buildings at major traffic intersections with no thought to the narrowing of pavements for pedestrians.The 33 story office block was completed in 1966 and  remained empty until 1975. It was controversial from the start being empty for almost a decade during a housing shortage whilst land and property prices rocketed. It is now being converted into luxury apartments which is par for the course in London.

Walking away from the station around the construction site I noticed this property where the facade is going to be preserved. Beyond it are the colourful buildings of Central St Giles.

The multi coloured exterior of these office blocks is like a slap in the face when you first see them. Designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano I still can't decide whether I like them or not. No doubt he wanted to make a statement with his first London project. (His next design was The Shard).

At ground level are the usual coffee shops and food outlets as well as the swirling winds that surround  these tall buildings.

 Across the road from this burst of colour is St Giles in the Field church. The church was founded in the 12th C as part of a leper hospital. The present Palladian style church was built by Flitcroft in 1770-73. During the 18th C and 19th C the population of the parish grew enormously exceeding 30,000 by 1831. This area known as the 'Rookeries'  was an overcrowded and lawless part of London. The construction of New Oxford Street in 1847 was designed to improve transport connections from the City but had the added bonus of clearing the slums. William Hogarth featured the steeple of St Giles in many of his prints depicting the debauchery of 18th C London.

Nowadays the church and churchyard have become a haven away from the hustle and bustle of this busy part of town.

Next to the church on Flitcroft Street is Elms Lester painting rooms. Built in 1904 the painting rooms supplied all the West End theatres with their theatrical backdrops. By the early eighties the building was almost derelict but a major renovation saw the four electrically operated paint frames working again and the scenery painting business up and running alongside the Art Gallery.

Continue walking down Flitcroft Street and you arrive at Phoenix Garden. Created in 1984 by volunteers on the site of a former car park, it is often referred to as the Secret Garden.

Around the corner is the Phoenix Theatre  opened in 1930 with the play 'Private Lives' by Noel Coward, starring Noel Coward.

The theatre was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Cathedral and the K2 red telephone box.

Leaving Phoenix Street I turned right onto Charing Cross Road well known for its numerous book shops. However I did not want to stray to far from Tottenham Court Station so I turned right into Denmark Street.

In the 50s and 60s this short street was the centre of the UK music industry. The New Musical Express and the Melody Maker magazines had their head offices here and the recording studios on the street were used by the Kinks, Rolling Stones and Elton John.

Continued my walk onto Shaftesbury Avenue with the Shaftesbury theatre on the corner. I am in theatre-land now with six theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue. There are 38 theatres just in the West End so you are never short of something to see.

Close to Shaftesbury Avenue on Little Russell Street is The Cartoon Museum. A small museum but full of original British cartoon and comic art from the 18th cent to the present day. 

Just around the corner on Great Russell Street is the British Museum. Founded in 1753, the Museum's collection spans over 2 million years of history and culture. It is here you will find the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering hieroglyphics.

Across the road from the Museum is Bedford Square.
Built between 1775 and 1783 it is a very elegant square facing a residents only garden square

All this and much more within a five minute walk of Tottenham Court Road tube station.


  1. Wow! Wish we had connected when I was in London ~ Gorgeous photo tour ~ Love it all ~ Favorite may be the Mosaic art work ~

    Wishing you a lovely week ~ ^_^

  2. It certainly is a colourful station. As stations are renovated, a lot of stylistic thought seems to go into them as well as the practical. The cartoon museum would be interesting to visit. Another fine exploration, thanks.

  3. Yes I passed through the station and marvelled at the murals. I seem to remember centre points only use in the first ten years was it was open over Christmas to provide a place fro the homeless to stay and get a meal. Did it ever have and occupants at all as an office block went. I think the paper your referring to was New Musical Express or NME as it's know now. I used to get it back in the 1970's. As usual and awesome tour round the area

  4. Hello, I love the colorful station and mosaics. I would like to visit the cartoon museum. Wonderful walk and tour. Thanks for taking me along! Have a great day and new week ahead!

  5. Well - we spent several days (not all at once) in the British Museum and also went to the theater in that district, but I don't remember the murals (are they newer? did we take the bus instead? who knows... I can barely remember what I had for lunch today, let alone how we got from one place to another all those (too many) years ago.
    However we got there, we certainly didn't see all we should have seen in this interesting area.

    Who decides how one station gets these interesting murals and another doesn't?

  6. What interesting architecture and fun things to see! The mosaics are awesome.

  7. The closest I've been to London was Harry Potter at Disney World! Nice photo travel tour.

  8. I have not got of at TCR for ages, it seems to have been given a new leash of life. I love this project of yours


  9. An amazing part of London. I like the coloured Buildings and the secret garden.

  10. Wonderful collection of photos! All looks great!

  11. Tottenham Court Road was my "work" station before I took a break for the family back in 1986. It's certainly undergone some changes since then.


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