From Great Portland Street Station (Circle and Metropolitan underground), a walk can be made including Portland Place, Cavendish Square, Harley Street, New Cavendish Street, Marylebone High Street and through the Paddington Street Gardens, ending up at Baker Street. On the way, there is some good sculpture - the idea is to see 19th Century works, and also modern figural sculptures to see how they bear the comparison. The earlier sculptors include Frampton, Brock and Schenck, the more recent ones Eric Gill, Epstein and Lipchitz (see Modern Sculptors for details). As well, there is architecture by Nash and Robert Adam, and 19th Century terra-cotta facades and arts and crafts buildings.
The start of the walk is at Great Portland Street Station, considered a classic underground station, with its distinctive island site and cream-coloured faience decoration. It was built in 1920 by the architect C. W. Clark. a few yards down Great Portland Street is the first sculptural work, a modern one in a niche in front of the Portland Hospital. Mother and Child is by David Norris, and dates from 1983. The child is balanced on the motherís arm, and she leans far over to accommodate his weight, giving a dynamic feeling to the group. The faces lack somewhat, but a graceful effect is achieved. Turning back towards the station, turning left along Marylebone Road brings one past a good bust of Kennedy (1965) by Jacques Lipchitz, to the entrance to Park Crescent, a beautiful ionic collonaded Nash construction. Walking along the Crescent to the centre, there is the beginning of Portland Place, and facing down it from the private gardens in the Crescent is a statue of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. This dates from 1829 and is by the less familiar sculptor Sebastian Gahagan. Turn into Portland Place itself.
In Portland Place is a bust of Lister (1922), on a high pedestal with bronze garnishes on the sides and a lifesize group of a woman and boy at the front. The figure and drapery of the woman is most gratifying. The artist was Thomas Brock, and a foundry stamp notes that the work was cast by Morris Art Bronze Foundry, London SW8.
Further down the street are two further early 20th Century statues: an equestrian George Stuart White (1922) by John Tweed, and a good Quintin Hogg (founder of the Polytechnic Movement) by Frampton dating from 1906.
I am unaware of any artists who lived in Portland Place, but it is irresistable to mention a certain Sir William Curtis, who was the first to advocate the teaching of 'the three R's: Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic'. A few words on the architecture. Porland Place is very wide - when it was laid out in the late 18th Century it was perhaps the widest of all London streets. It was originally designed by Robert Adam, and some of his architecture survives - especially no. 21 with Ionic pillasters and pediment, and nos. 46-48 in Corinthian style. The big Langham Hotel was built in 1863, and at that time was one of the largest buildings in London, being one of the earliest such giant hotels in Britain, though there were already several such in America. It comprised originally some 600 apartments, and was opened with a grand banquet in the 100ft dining hall. Also in Portland Place is Broadcasting House, with interesting architectural sculpture in Portland Stone by Eric Gill (1931/2), the Prospero and Ariel over the entrance being a notable example of his work.
Proceeding southwards, Portland Place becomes Langham Place and then crosses Cavendish Place into Regent Street. The remarkable round church on the corner, All Souls, is another Nash building. Turn into Cavendish Place leading immediately to Cavendish Square.
Cavendish Square has two important statues. Lord George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck, by Thomas Campbell, dates from 1848, and is solid work, with strong drapery including a heavy cloak and the treatment of the face being especially noble. To the north of the square, between two Palladian houses, an arch leading to the Theology faculty of the University of London bears Epstein's lead group of Madonna and Child (1953).
In 1770 an equestrian statue of William, Duke of Cumberland (second son of George II), was placed in the centre spot. This statue, of lead, was removed in 1868 but the plinth still remains, empty, in the centre of the Square.
Cavendish Square, looking North, 1820
Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, owned the land originally, and laid out the Square in 1717. The Duke of Chandos built two houses in the 1720s, one of which survives (much altered) on the corner of Harley Street. In the centre of the north side two Palladian buildings with Corinthian columns were built (1769-72). The picture above shows this side of the Square, with the two houses built by Harley (the one on the left is the surviving one) and the two central Palladian buildings. Today, these now have between them the arch with the Epstein sculpture.
The Square has an artistic reputation - George Romney lived here - his rival Sir Joshua Reynolds always called him 'the man of Cavendish Square'. He lived in a house built by Francis Cote, another portrait painter, and later Sir Martin Archer Shee PRA lived in the same house. In the house at the corner of Harley Street lived George Watson-Taylor, who was a great collector of paintings until he became bankrupt in 1832. He was born into money, was bequeathed a further enormous fortune, and by squandering it on paintings and other nice things, managed to use up the lot. Sir Robert Peel said of him that 'no man ever bought ridicule at so high a price'.
A Barbara Hepworth abstract sculpture may be noted on the side of John Lewis towards the Oxford Street front. It is called Winged Figure (1932) and is of aluminium and string. From Cavendish Square, go north, parallel to the just-descended Portland Place, along Harley Street.
Harley Street has been severely criticised:
It exhibits the British house in its most uninteresting and feeble aspect. Walking through such thoroughfares would speedily reduce the highest spirits to a state of blank depression. These are not properly rows of houses so much as stretches of walls pierced with windows and doors - (Magazine of Art).Our perspective today is different, and there is much of interest in the street. The first houses were all built towards the end of the century, and the ones at the corner with Wigmore Street are seriously decorated in terra-cotta. No. 37, built 1899-1900 by the architect Beresford Pite, has sculptural decoration in sandstone by Frederick Schenck, including low reliefs on the corner and Queen Anne Street frontage at two levels, and an upwards-reaching caryatid above. The whole effect is most decorative and organic, and utterly of the period. No. 49 is another arts and crafts style house, and nos. 53-55, dating from 1910, has vile cherubs. The other houses in the street are from a range of dates, some back to the mid-18th Century, and there are various heads above doorways (in Coade Stone), shields, flourishes and ornate ironwork throughout. We may note that lots of famous people lived in this street, including the artists William Beechey, a pupil of Reynolds (at no. 18), and the mid-18th Century painter Allan Ramsay (no. 67). The street also featured in Dickens's Little Dorrit as the home of Mr Merdle.
Turning down New Cavendish Street, on the corner with Wimpole Street is Wimpole House, an ornate terracotta faced building. Further, the former B. Davies and Son building has arts and crafts style carvings with stylised trees and peacock. This is a good example of an extreme stylisation of nature to produce ornament, much espoused by Walter Crane. Two cockerels are also part of the decoration, on either side of the central sign above the main display window.
Marylebone High Street has that elusive 'Continental ambience' much claimed by more modern developments. This is a good if not cheap place for tea and exquisite buscuits. Turning right, proceed along and turn into Paddington Street on the left.
On the left hand side, the former Good Shephard and St Mary-le-Bone Church and Church Institute and Club (1898) has a good terracotta figure above the door. On the left and right of the street lie the Paddington Street Gardens, and in the larger, left-hand (south) part is a statue - Street Orderly Boy by Donato Barcaglia of Milan (1849-1930). It is rather sentimental, but the boy has a well-captured wistful expression. We may note that these gardens were also part of the large estate of Edward Harley. He sold it to St George's Church as a burial ground, and a small mausoleum (1759) is a notable relic of that period.
Continuing along Paddington Street and turning right into Baker Street leads almost immediately to Baker Street Station and the end of the walk.
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