What’s in a name?…Harley Street…

December 14, 2015

A Marylebone street which is synonymous the world over with the private medical profession, Harley Street’s name is taken from the surname of the second Earl of Oxford, Edward Harley.

Harley-StreetHis Lordship, who lived between 1689 and 1741, was a land developer and was responsible for the development of land north of Oxford Street in the early 18th century.

As was the fashion, he named Harley Street after himself – but it’s certainly not the only street  which he dubbed with his own moniker. The earl also held the titles of Earl Mortimer (Mortimer Street) and Baron Wigmore (Wigmore Street, Wigmore Place and hence the music venue Wigmore Hall) and also came to own Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire (Wimpole Street) and Welbeck Abbey in Northamptonshire (Welbeck Street and Welbeck Way).

But the ties to the earl don’t end there: in 1713 he married Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles (Henrietta Place, Cavendish Square, New Cavendish Street and Holles Street) while their daughter Margaret married William Bentinck (Bentinck Street), the 2nd Duke of Portland (Great Portland Street, Little Portland Street and Portland Place).

Incidentally, after the earl’s death, the area passed to his daughter and become known as the Portland Estate. It remained the property of the Dukes of Portland for five generations until the fifth duke died without issue in 1879 and the land passed to Lucy Joan Bentinck, widow of the 6th Baron Howard de Walden. Thus Harley Street now forms part of a 92 acre area known as the Howard de Walden Estate.

But back to Harley Street itself. Its association with the private medical profession dates from the latter half of the 19th century when there was a dramatic increase in the number of those engaged in the profession moving into the area, attracted by its quality housing and accessibility (the numbers still remain significant today). The name Harley Street today refers to both the street and also more generally to the surrounding area.

The long list of famous residents who have lived in the street have included painter JMW Turner (number 64 between 1799 and 1805), Victorian-era PM William Ewart Gladstone (number 73 and geologist Sir Charles Lyell also lived here in a premises which is now The Harley Street General Practice) and, made famous through the film, The King’s Speech, Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue who had his practice at number 146.

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One Response to “What’s in a name?…Harley Street…”

  1. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    Yes indeed. The second Earl of Oxford was doing what all aristocrats did while developing the loveliest London squares and houses – he named sites after himself. Ditto Earl Grosvenor, Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Kent etc.

    But knowing the family’s title is not enough. What I would not have known was that his surname was Harley, even though I knew Harley St very well. Thank you.

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