What to See

Where Exactly Is The Rathbone?

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Before we get to that, we have an important announcement to make…


We have irrefutable evidence that the above statement is true. Pedicures are being booked by the million and the air is thick with the mouth-watering smell of BBQ smoke. What more proof do you need?

Last month we gave you the lowdown on what’s happening in London this summer but this month, it’s all about us and the things that make us happy – if you’ll permit us a little-pre-summer self-promotion…!

As a hotel in a city where the consumer has huge choice, we have to constantly – prepare yourself for a sporting metaphor overload – stay on our toes, never drop the baton and stay ahead of the game.

Amongst many others, one of the most important ways we know is to provide an exceptional level of customer service. We know, we know, every hotel – in fact every business – in the world will tell you how good their customer service is, and if you read our website, we are no different.

But – and this is a big BUT – we can tell you until we’re blue in the face but to us, there’s no better testimonial than the voice of a happy end user. Take a look at the testimonials, all from TripAdvisor, on the home page of our website. Every time we get a great new review that mentions our levels of service, it makes us very happy indeed!

Our team, just like our guests, come from all over the world and while we’re not qualified psychologists, we really do think that it’s the international nature of our hotel that creates a rapport unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

Nothing is too much trouble for our team, whether it’s booking tickets, taxis or daytrips, satisfying even the most specific dietary requirements in the restaurant or making sure that if you need more shampoo, you’ve forgotten your toothbrush or you want Earl Grey instead of English Breakfast, you have whatever you need to make your stay a memorable one.

But let’s go back to the question at the top of the page. Where exactly is the Rathbone? That might be an odd question given we’re in the beating heart of the most amazing city in the world and while you will definitely know Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, you might not know much about Fitzrovia, the quaint corner of central London we sit in.

Read on to find out more about a beautifully quaint piece of London steeped in amazing history and jam-packed full of cool bars, restaurants, mews and shopping but who very few people could point to it on a map!

Fitzrovia – The Best Place in London You’ve Never Heard Of!

Bordered by the offbeat counter-culture of Camden Town to the north and the heaving metropolis that is the West End to the south, Fitzrovia is a delightfully quiet enclave sitting pretty right in the middle – so quiet in fact you’d hardly know it was there!

The area has long been associated with the creative arts and has a distinctly Bohemian vibe. We’re surrounded by great restaurants, cafés, bars and quirky independent shops and galleries, especially around Charlotte Street, Charlotte Place and Rathbone Place – described by biographer Paul Willetts as ‘the crooked spine of Fitzrovia’. The list of writers, artists, musicians and purveyors of the dark arts who frequented the pubs, clubs and drinking dens of Fitzrovia reads like a who’s who of late 19th and early 20th century creativity…

Actors and writers Quentin Crisp, Dylan Thomas, Aleister Crowley, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Charles Laughton; artists Whistler and Constable; French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud and even rockers Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan spent time in Fitzrovia – it’s reputation is well justified and while this select few may not be around anymore, their legacy lives on all over the place.

When you’re walking around Fitzrovia, look up at the building façades and every so often you’ll see a round blue plaque. They are dotted all over London and there’s over 900 plaques on buildings humble and grand honouring notable men and women who lived, worked or frequented them. See how many you can spot!

Fitzrovia? That’s An Odd Name…

Yes. Yes it is, but like every (or most) place and street names in London, there’s logic behind the madness.

Although there is some conjecture amongst local historians as to how the area got its name, most agree that it was named after the Fitzroy Tavern on the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street. The pub itself (and neighbouring Fitzroy Street) was named after Charles FitzRoy – translated from the Norman-French ‘son of the King’ – who was responsible for the development of Fitzroy Square in the 18th century.

**Interesting Fact #1** The actual word Fitzrovia didn’t appear in print until as recently as 1940 by MP (and later Chairman of the Labour Party) Tom Driberg in the William Hickey column for the Daily Express.

The area was developed mainly by the FitzRoy, Devonshire and Portland families (and those who married into them) and the local street names are testament to these prominent London families, including Grafton, Harley, Bentinck, Mortimer, Devonshire, Cavendish and Portland.

What’s interesting about the development of the area in the 18th and 19th centuries is that since it was developed mainly by small self-contained landowners, there is a predominance of narrow and irregular streets which allowed for more squares and two of London’s oldest surviving residential walkways can be found in Fitzrovia. Colville Place and the pre-Victorian Middleton Buildings were built in the late 1750s. We challenge you to go and find them!

**Interesting Fact #2** Fitzrovia was full of 18th century buildings, many of which have now been demolished but the proposed demolition of one particular building caused consternation amongst the locals. Originally called the Cleveland Street Workhouse, it was built between 1775 and 1778 to care for the sick and poor of the parish and scholars believe it was the inspiration for the workhouse in Charles Dickens’ first major novel, Oliver Twist. Dickens lived nine doors away at what is now 22 Cleveland Street in 1815-6 and again from 1828-31 and wrote Oliver Twist in 1837.

Rathbone Street – The Shortest History Ever

It seems that despite extensive research, the story of why Rathbone Street is so called is incredibly short! According to a historian writing in the 1780s, ‘Rathbone Place, the first turning to the eastward of Newman Street, perpetuates the name of its builder, a Captain Rathbone and an inscription on one of the houses, ‘Rathbone Place, Oxford Street, 1718,’ fixes the date of its erection.’

In 1784 in his ‘Book For A Rainy Day’, Mr JT Smith noted that Rathbone Street (unusually for the time) consisted entirely of private houses and those who lived there were all of high respectability and in a map published around the same time, cows are represented grazing in a field on the site now occupied by Rathbone Place.

So, not much has changed in almost 240 years apart from the fact that in a cruel twist of irony, the cows have been replaced by steakhouses and gourmet burger restaurants!

Anyway, history lesson over so all you need to do is experience Fitzrovia for yourself! To book your stay at the Rathbone, please call +44 (0) 20 7636 2001 or email reservations@rathbonehotel.co.uk today.

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23 June 2024