Last week’s jaunt out saw my London Shoes head ‘up west’ to the Soho district of the ‘Smoke’, for the specific purpose of exploring a famous street that is virtually next door to the Barclays Bank branch in Wardour Street, where I worked from 1974 to 1978 when I was a teenager – and yet it’s only now, some 47yrs later – that I’ve discovered the existence of this particular street.
So – the subject matter in question for this week’s London Shoes blog is the unique “Meard Street”–London W1 – a small Soho street stuck in a time warp, and with an amazing history.
Meard Street is located in the heart of London’s Soho district, and runs between and connects Wardour Street to Dean Street – Its unique houses depict an almost perfect example of ‘Georgian’ architecture – which covered the period of time between 1713 and 1830, and is regarded as the greatest period of English architecture.
It is named after a ‘John Meard’ (the younger) who was a carpenter and later became a nobleman.
John Meard was responsible for developing the street as far back as 1720 through to 1730 – and the properties he designed and built, are still in situ to this very day – and as a result Meard Street is one of the few surviving London streets from the Georgian period
Meard was regarded as one of his generations most skilled carpenters – particularly throughout London – and at that period of time, carpentry was one of the most sought after skills and trades, because wood was the main component material of house building and construction.
In 1735 John Meard became a ‘Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters’ and worked with Sir Christopher Wren on St. Paul’s Cathedral and other iconic historical churches.
Numbers 1 – 3 – 5 & 7 Meard Street are a terrace of 4 single fronted houses, that are 4 storeys high and with a basement – and still retain their original ‘Georgian’ architectural features which include:- a dog legged staircase – 3 evenly spaced front windows – wide piers between each house – brown stock bricks – stone sills – double hung sash-windows.
Numbers 1 to 7 and 2 to 6 were the very first houses to be sold off and occupied, and are still residential properties to this very day – some 300yrs since they were built.
Official records of past residents of these Meard Street houses exist – and some of the earliest owners and residents make interesting reading, and in my opinion, could quite easily be dramatised into a TV series or film – I’m sure it would be a best seller :-))
The who’s who of Meard Street’s early owners/residents from the early1700’s, reads as follow:-
No. 1 – Burkat Shudi – a harpsichord maker
No. 1 – (1738-42) the house became the Westminster Women’s Penitent Asylum
No. 7 – (1739-42) Rev Richard Terrick – who became the Bishop of London
No. 9 – Thomas Langley – who taught architecture to ‘young gentlemen’
No. 9 – (1758) Elizabeth Flint – rented a room within the house – whose character was documented within the community as:- “generally slut & drunkard – occasionally whore and thief”
No. 11 – (1755-70) Abraham Browne – 1st violinist in the King & Queens Band
Throughout the 18th & 19th centuries official records show that these properties in Meard Street were occupied by all sorts of people – for example:- a chess player / musicians / composers / writers / architects / enamel engravers & painters / artists & watchmakers
Fast forward to the 20th century and the Meard Street houses still retained their prestige – and were occupied by numerous well to do people, plus some dodgy ones – many connected in some way to the legal & illegal Soho night-life .
In the early 1980’s the building on the corner of Meard Street and Dean Street became the ‘Batcave’ – a club that saw the birth of the English ‘Goth’ culture – where the likes of Robert Smith (of the Cure), Marc Almond and Souixsie Sue of the Banshees, were all regulars.
Today – because of the age of the properties within it and their ‘Georgian’ architectural elegance – the houses in Meard Street are up there as being some of the most photographed landmarks in London – and if you were ever interested in purchasing one then it would set you back anything between £5m and £16m in todays market.
Apart from these magnificent historic houses – there is another ‘street fixture’ that makes Meard Street even more unique – it is the site of one of my favourite London ‘quirky’ landmarks – the “7 Noses of Soho”.
In 1997 an artist by the name of ‘Rick Buckley’ so aggrieved at the continuous implementation of CCTV surveillance cameras on almost every street corner throughout London, and the fact that we seemed to be moving more and more towards an Orwellian type of ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’ culture – he felt that he just had to protest his displeasure and disapproval in some way.
Rather than adopting a vandalistic destructive approach to protesting, Buckley decided to adopt a more pacifistic, humorous stance to air his anger.
His plan was to place model casts of his ‘nose’ on numerous walls and buildings throughout London – right in the line of sight of various CCTV cameras, so as to ‘cock a snook’ at the authorities.
So – by conducting a number of under-cover covert operations, he secretly stuck over 30 ‘noses’ on numerous locations over London – to make his own personal protest – and one of the 7 remaining Noses just happens to be situated high up on a wall at the Dean Street end of Meard Street – very easy to discover.
London Shoes actually covered-off the “7 Noses of Soho” topic in great detail exactly 3yrs ago this month in October 2017 – so, if you were interested in finding out more, then you can find this specific blog on the ‘Shoes’ website menu.
So – that’s all about Meard Street for you – a street from another period in time, that is situated bang in the middle of the hustle & bustle of the sometimes seedy Soho – that probably still looks as elegant and refined today, as it did over 300yrs ago.
Before heading off back east and home, I turned out of Meard Street into Wardour Street – a street that, pre-Covid19 would be rammed 24/7 with noisy gridlocked traffic and pedestrians rushing about all over the place – but sadly today – its become just another of London’s many ‘ghost’ streets.
Down at the Oxford Street end end of Wardour Street, is the old Barclays Bank building where I worked (aged 17 to 21) between the years 1974 and 1978. It hasn’t been a bank for sometime now, and has morphed into a number of restaurant type businesses throughout recent decades – and in fact it is a restaurant these days, but it was quite evident that the place hadn’t been open for business, probably since the March Covid19 lockdown – and sadly, by the looks of it, it will probably never re-open – but it is what it is, and it will be3 what it will be!!!
Hope you enjoyed exploring Meard Street and found its little story interesting.
See below the entire gallery of photos taken to accompany this blog