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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This curiously named part of London, pronounced Mar-lee-bone, takes it’s name from a church dedicated to St Mary which was originally built near a small river or stream called the Tyburn or Tybourne. Hence St Mary-le-Burn became St Marylebone.

There was a medieval village here which during the 18th century became subsumed into greater London as fashionable people sought land to the west of the city. The area – in particular Harley Street – became known as a location of choice for doctors to site their consulting rooms and is still known for its medical establishments.

Among the significant sites is the St Marylebone Parish Church (pictured right) which, consecrated in 1817, was where poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were married in 1846 following their elopement, the John Nash-designed All Souls Church in Langham Place, the Langham Hotel which opened in 1865 and boasted Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain among guests, 221B Baker Street, fictional home of Sherlock Holmes and now the site of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds.

Marylebone is also home to the world famous Wallace Collection, bequeathed to the government in 1897, the concert hall Wigmore Hall, the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Institute of Architects, and the art-deco headquarters of the BBC, Broadcasting House. Marylebone High Street remains a shopping mecca offering a diverse range of independent boutiques and specialty shops while in the south, Marylebone includes one of London’s most famous shopping strips on Oxford Street.

Other famous people connected with the area include four time Prime Minister William Gladstone who lived at 73 Harley Street from 1876 to 1882, writer Charles Dickens who lived at 18 Bentinck Street while working as a court reporter in the 1830s, author Edward Gibbon, who lived at 7 Bentinck Street while writing his landmark text The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from the 1770s, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who worked in Upper Wimpole Street in the 1890s.